Russia marked a half century since Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, the greatest victory of Soviet science which expanded human horizons and is still remembered by Russians as their finest hour.
At 0907 Moscow time on April 12, 1961 Gagarin uttered the famous words "Let's Go" as the Vostok rocket, with him squeezed into a tiny capsule at the top, blasted off from the south of the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.
After a voyage lasting just 108 minutes that granted the 27-year-old carpenter's son historical immortality, Gagarin ejected from his capsule and parachuted down into a field in the Saratov region of central Russia.
From that moment on, his life, and the course of modern space exploration, would never be the same again.
Al Jazeera's Neave Barker reports.