The 60th anniversary of the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's first flight in space was commemorated, this morning, at the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre (RGSC), Bell Village. The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Mauritius, Mr Konstantin Klimovskiy, the Senior Adviser of the Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, Mr H.B. Dansinghani, and the Chairman of the RGSC Trust Fund, Dr J. Naugah, as well as other personalities were present on the occasion.
The commemorative ceremony organised by the RGSC in the context of the World Space Week, comprised the unveiling of a bust of Yuri Gagarin, gifted to the Republic of Mauritius by the Russian Embassy. Two science project competitions, notably the 4-Minute Science contest and a Model Glider contest, were also launched.
In his address, Mr Klimovskiy recalled that 60 years ago on 12 April 1961, the Vostok manned spacecraft was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, making Yuri Gagarin the first person to fly into outer space in the world history. This event, he added, became a turning point for the history of space exploration by mankind, representing the result of the joint work of countless Soviet engineers, scientists, employees of research institutes as well as thousands of staff members involved in related spheres.
Furthermore, he underlined that achievements made by the Soviet Union and Russia within the framework of the manned space flight programmes gained major popularity around the world and the delivery of the first modular manned scientific and research space station to the near-Earth orbit undertaken in 1986 became one of the most ambitious space projects in modern history.
The Ambassador enumerated some of the experiments that were conducted by the Soviet Union and Russia. These include: the making of the first baseline model of a manned multi-seat spacecrafts series entitled "Soyuz" in 1962; the implementation of the Soviet-American program Soyuz-Apollo Test Project, also known as the "Handshake in Space"; launching of about 2,000 artificial satellites of the "Cosmos" series from 1962 to 2001; launching of the Soviet automatic interplanetary stations of the Luna series designed to study the Moon and outer space from 1958 to 1976; and launching of interplanetary stations of the "Mars" series from 1960 to 1973.
On this score, he reiterated that Russia will continue to collaborate with other countries in the field of exploration and use of Outer Space adding that a number of agreements between the Russian space agency ROSCOSMOS and China's National Space Administration on the exploration of the Moon and the deep space are already being implemented.
Mr Klimovskiy also lauded the important steps taken by the Republic of Mauritius as regards exploration of Outer Space with the deployment of the first Mauritian Nanosatellite MIR-SAT1 developed under the leadership of the Mauritius Research and Innovation Council within the framework of the KiboCube programme.
For his part, Mr Dansinghani, highlighted that the unveiling of the bust of Yuri Gagarin adds yet another feather in the RGSC's cap. This ceremony, he added, could not be more appropriate in 2021 when Mauritius has joined the restricted assembly of space-faring nations and has its own satellite in space.
Speaking about the first human space flight, the Senior Advisor pointed out that this pioneering achievement opened the door onto outer space for humanity and also served as a unifying agent for all nations around the globe.
He enumerated some of the pioneering accomplishments in space flights conducted by the then Soviet Union, notably: the first satellite Sputnik 1 followed shortly after by the first animal in Earth Orbit, the dog, Laika; the first human in space followed by the first woman cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, in space in 1963; the first spacewalk by cosmonaut Alexi Leonov in 1965; the robotic lunar landing with a return of lunar rocks in 1970 and; the first orbital space station, Salyut 1, in 1971.
Moreover, Mr Dansinghani indicated that the rapid development of outer space application and technologies such as navigation, meteorology and remote sensing, has a profound impact on various aspects such as sailing, fisheries, agriculture, meteorology and disaster reduction, and promotes economic development, social progress across the world. In recent years, cooperation between countries as regards space activities are turning out to be even more significant in this current "climate crisis" era, he underlined.
He reiterated the Ministry's commitment to engage with international bodies in organising science-related activities and projects as these initiatives form part of our reforms agenda where students are provided opportunities to engage in science clubs and in extracurricular activities in order to boost their scientific understanding.
Space sciences and astronomy are among the most popular science fields that interest all age groups and the setting up of the new satellite centre of the RGSC in Réduit in the years to come is proof of this, the Senior Adviser indicated.
As for the Chairman of the RGSC Trust Fund, Dr Naugah, she underlined that the RGSC has the mandate to promote science and technology in Mauritius adding that the bust of Yuri Gagarin at the RGSC will be a source of inspiration for the youth. She expressed gratitude to all different countries and stakeholders for supporting the RGSC in its mission to promote interest in science and technology so as to make Mauritius become a knowledge-based economy and thus, create a better quality of life.