Saturday, 1 May 2021

Expo 67, Yuri Gargarin and Kazakhstan

The tulips of the Kazakh steppes (Credit: Alyona Koshkina) 

(Image credit: Alyona Koshkina)   

I continue to be fascinated by Expo 67 and the former Soviet Union (now Russia).

I was looking about this which is in a book I have from Expo 67  Stepping Out in Space       Flight of Spaceship Voskhod-2.

On April 12, 1961, the spaceship “Vostok” took off into outer space with Cosmonaut No. 1 Yuri Gargarin. The Kazakhstan steppe, crimsoned by the spring crops of tulips and poppies, welcomed the hero in its embrace. 

After thousands of people left the steppes of Kazakhstan, nature began to reclaim it on a huge scale.

“When Alyona Koshkina walks through the wild grasses of Kazakhstan’s vast plains in spring, she is overwhelmed by the life blooming around her. Migratory birds zip overhead through a sprawling sky, greenery shimmers, ocean-like in the breeze, and flowers dot the landscape with specks of purple, yellow, white and red.

     You have always this sound of wind in your ears,” she says. “It’s very open.” Koshkina, a researcher at the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK), knows this treeless habitat – called steppe – intimately.

    “When you drive through the steppe, it appears to be nothing but monotonous expanses of endless grass. But that grass is full of surprises. [Martin] Freitag mentions the wild tulips, for instance.

     When the snow has melted and it becomes a bit warmer at the end of April, the massive flowering of tulips is really most colourful,” he says.”

 (The picture, and the sound of the wind, is eerily like Saskatchewan.)

Yuri Gargarin was the first man in space

The first satellite in space (in 1957) was the Sputnik, also Russian.

Both of these things started the space race, and also both left (i.e. blasted off) from Kazakhstan. John F. Kennedy said he would get a man on the moon first, before the Russians.   

The book The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe tells the story of American space flight. (It’s a great read and there is a lot more than the JFK Library says!)

Of interest right now is the Russian vaccine for Covid 19. It’s called Sputnik V, called that to reflect their great success in space.

And, of course, Yuri Gargarin.


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