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Submitted by Arthur - N1ORC - Amsat #31468

Glenn Mahone/Doc Mirelson
Headquarters, Washington                    April 12, 2004
(Phone: 202/358-1600)

RELEASE: 04-123


     Today is a great day in the history of spaceflight, 
marking the 43rd anniversary of the first human spaceflight 
and the 23rd anniversary of the first flight of the Space 
Shuttle. Our Russian partners celebrate this day as 
Cosmonautics Day. In keeping with tradition, NASA 
Administrator Sean O'Keefe sent congratulations on behalf of 
the agency to Russian Federal Space Agency Head Anatolii 

On April 12, 1961, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first 
human to travel in space, when he was launched on the 
historic "Vostok 1" flight. Since that day, Russia has 
celebrated April 12th as Cosmonautics Day.

In his letter of congratulations, Administrator O'Keefe said, 
"My warmest congratulations to you and the people of the 
Federal Space Agency (FKA) on Cosmonautics Day 2004!  The 
people of FKA can be justifiably proud of the heritage of 
success that we all celebrate on Cosmonautics Day.

"As the world celebrates the 43rd anniversary of the historic 
flight of Yuri Gagarin, we are reminded of the tremendous 
contributions space exploration has made to humanity. These 
contributions are many and varied, ranging from exploits in 
human space flight to robotic discoveries across the solar 

"Closer to home, exploration has yielded unprecedented 
insights into the Earth's systems from orbiting satellites to 
incredible advancements in biological and physical research. 
It is no coincidence NASA and FKA have substantial ongoing 
cooperation in each of these areas, as our agencies continue 
to work closely together to push back the frontiers of space 
for the benefit of all.

"I am proud that our courageous spacefarers, such as 
astronaut Michael Foale and cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri, who 
are on-orbit on the International Space Station, and Gennady 
Padalka and Mike Fincke who are in the final stages of 
preparation for the next journey of discovery on the Station, 
continue to build upon the legacy of Yuri Gagarin and expand 
our reach into the unknown."

The first flight of the Space Shuttle took place on April 12, 
1981. The Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-1) blasted off on its 
historic mission on the 20th anniversary of Gagarin's 
groundbreaking flight. The Columbia's 54-hour, 36-orbit 
mission tested the vehicle, which has since been used as the 
basis of our international human space flight partnerships.
Scientific cooperation with the Soviet Union dates back to 
the very beginnings of space flight. The first cooperative 
human space flight project between the United States and the 
Soviet Union took place in 1975. The Apollo-Soyuz Test 
Project was designed to test the compatibility of rendezvous 
and docking systems for American and Soviet spacecraft and to 
open the way for future joint manned flights.

Since 1993, the U.S. and Russia have worked together on a 
number of other space flight projects. The Space Shuttle 
began visiting the Russian Mir space station in 1994, and in 
1995 Norm Thagard became the first U.S. astronaut to take up 
residency on Mir. Seven U.S. astronauts served with their 
Russian counterparts aboard the orbiting Mir laboratory from 
1995 to 1998. The experience gained from the Mir cooperative 
effort, as well as lessons learned, paved the way for the 
International Space Station.

In-orbit construction on the Station began in November 1998, 
and it has been staffed non-stop with international crews 
since November 2000. The first Station crew, made up of U.S. 
commander Bill Shepherd and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and 
Sergei Krikalev, was launched on board a Russian Soyuz 
spacecraft. The crew returned to Earth on the Space Shuttle 
Discovery in March 2001.

Since the Space Shuttle Columbia accident on February 1, 
2003, crew exchange and resupply of the Station have depended 
on Russian Soyuz and Progress vehicles. The cooperation 
between the U.S. and Russia has grown into a mutually 
supportive effort. With the combined efforts of the other 14 
International Space Station partner nations, the unique 
orbiting laboratory has become a symbol of peaceful 
international cooperation.

For information about NASA and agency programs on the 
Internet, visit:


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