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50 Years of Human Spaceflight

The theme for World Space Week 2011 is "50 Years of Human Spaceflight."   

The first human spaceflight took place on April 12, 1961, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made one orbit around the Earth aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft, launched by the Soviet space program and designed by the rocket scientist Sergey Korolyov.

As of 2010, human spaceflight missions have been conducted by the former Soviet Union/(Russia), the United States, the People's Republic of China and by the private spaceflightcompany Scaled Composites.

Several other countries and space agencies have announced and begun human spaceflight programs by their own technology, including India (ISRO), Ecuador (EXA), Japan (JAXA),Iran (ISA) and Malaysia (MNSA).

Currently the following spacecraft and spaceports are used for launching human spaceflights:

  • Soyuz with Soyuz rocket—Baikonur Cosmodrome
  • Space Shuttle—Kennedy Space Center
  • International Space Station (ISS)—Assembled in orbit; crews transported by the previous two spacecraft
  • Shenzhou spacecraft with Long March rocket—Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center

Historically, the following spacecraft and spaceports have also been used for human spaceflight launches:

  • Vostok—Baikonur Cosmodrome
  • Mercury—Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
  • Voskhod—Baikonur Cosmodrome
  • X-15—Edwards Air Force Base,[4] (two internationally recognized suborbital flights in program)
  • Gemini—Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
  • Apollo—Kennedy Space Center (Apollo 7 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station)
  • Salyut space station—Baikonur Cosmodrome
  • Almaz space station—Baikonur Cosmodrome (Almaz was a series of military space stations under cover of the civilian name Salyut)
  • Skylab space station—Kennedy Space Center
  • Mir space station—Baikonur Cosmodrome
  • SpaceShipOne with White Knight—Mojave Spaceport

As you can see, international collaboration has been key to the success of humans in space. Please do join us in celebrating these great accomplishments.

All World Space Week participants are requested to:
    1)  Plan World Space Week programs that address this theme in some way
    2)  Incorporate this theme into all of your World Space Week publicity materials

Each year's theme provides broad guidance to World Space Week participants on the content of their programs.  The theme is selected to increase the impact of World Space Week on all humanity.  Further, by using a uniform theme globally, World Space Week demonstrates unprecedented global cooperation in space.   The theme is selected by the World Space Week Association Board of Directors in close coordination with the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs.  Compliance with the theme is not required but is encouraged.

Your ideas for future year's World Space Week themes are welcomed and appreciated.   Please email your theme ideas to

Click here to see themes from other years' celebration of World Space Week.

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