Bird Poop!!!

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Watch Out at This Space!

Is anyone familiar with the fact that last week was the 50th anniversary of any human stepping out of this planet for a stroll???

Yup....correct, on April 12th, 1961 AD, Yuri Gagarin piloted himself out of this planet's in his ride, Vostok - I, and made history. That was the beginning of an entirely new era, and the subsequents outings of men to the moon was even cooler.

However, sitting here in 2011, I can't but be disappointed on how things have panned out after that. Fifty years after that of Mr. Gagarin's stroll, I would have expected space travel be as regular as that of Cox & Kings travel packages to Europe. But no. Not only do we own flying gravity-defying cars or have sexually attractive androids working in our kitchens, but "normal" people still can't travel to space. I wonder what people in 1970s-80s would have thought how 2011 would be like. If I were a teen in that time, then by now I would have been demanding my money back. So what really happened??? I rephrase Oscar Wilde - "We are all in the gutter, and no one can see the stars."

Seriously, what happened to that Soyuz vs Apollo, cosmonaut vs astronaut, Gagarin vs Armstrong war - how come all of those rivalry got replaced by Apple vs Microsoft thing?? I place some of my hope in the Chinese sending up the maned missions and building lunar colonies, India too is keeping its hands busy with the Chandrayaan. Not too bad to gear up the things, may be an Islamic Space Mission can do the trick (Come on, Iran!).

I'm of course, being quite optimistic. But for at least 25 years after 1961, the future looked tantalisingly good. With Gagarin's first space flight came the moment when science fiction merged with science fact in all its nerdy details and wide-eyed glory as a carefully selected farm boy-turned-fighter-pilot went outside the world and came back in single piece. No one has put it better than Nikita Krushchev's aide Fyodor Burlatsky: "I was in tears, and many people in the streets were crying with shock, a shock of happiness.... because a man was flying in heaven... the realm of God..."

Leaving the world has always been jettisoned in favour of saving the world. Even though sending cosmonauts and astronauts were, in part, a national muscle-flexing exercise, the primal thrill of leaving the Earth and entering a celestial zone was never out of sight. Here is how Gagarin described his first flight - "You can see the colourful change from the brightness of the earth to the darkness of the space as a thin dividing line, like a layer of film surrounding the Earth's atmosphere, and the transition is very gradual and lovely. When I emerged from the Earth's shadow, there was a bright orange strip along the horizon, which passed into blue, and then into a dense black."


Which is why I was so disappointed when I had first saw the old video of Rakesh Sharma, India's first cosmonaut, when he describes to Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, that what he saw from insides of Soyuz-II in space: An India which was " sare jahan se achchha" (<--translation: "Best in the entire world"). From the "realm of God", that was one helluva banal observation.

Space is right above us and manned space travel beyond our orbit is something all we have seem to lose interest for a while. So instead of parroting that incredibly cheesy line apt for our cheese times 'Yes, we can!', I say, "Poyekhali!" -"Let's Go!" - as Gagarin has shouted out from inside of Vostok capsule perched on a R-7 rocket as it blasted out from Baikonur in Kazakhstan half a century ago. Going by the utter silence I'm getting as a response, I maybe in space already.

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