The first of the events to mark the 50th anniv of the historical flight of Yuri Gagarin on April 12,1961, has kicked off in Mumbai.
It is an exhibition of 42 pictures which focusses mainly on the 108-minute flight inaugurating the era of human space exploration. The venue is the Cultural Centre of Russia at Pedder Road. The informative show will remain open till Thursday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
For space buffs like BMM the pictorial exhibit was a real treat. There are a number of pictures about Gagarin's visit to New Delhi and meeting former PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, but none about his Mumbai tour. ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM),'' recalled standing at the Mahalakshmi temple junction as a school boy and waving to Gagarin as he passed by in a convey.
It was at this very spot BMM stood eight years later on October 25,1969, along with several hundred people which included the father of the Indian nuclear bomb, Raja Ramanna, and his daughter, Nirupa, and waving to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, when they came to Mumbai!
Coming back to the exhibition, there is a picture of the house where Gagarin was born and a few with the chief Soviet (former) rocket scientist, Sergei Korolev. It is a wonderful exhibition and BMM wishes that it can visit it daily as though it was a temple. Centre officials told BMM that the pictures were obtained from Moscow and will now remain with the Centre's archives.
BMM came to know about the exhibition when it was attending an international Space Climate 4 conference at Calangute in Goa last week,. If BMM had been in Mumbai on the inaugural day, it would have done a report for The Times of India. It was inaugurated by my good friend, Piyush Pandey, director of Nehru Planetarium. On its part if the Cultural Centre Of Russia had given wider publicity about the exhibition, more people could have attended it, Schools in Mumbai have reopened after the Christmas and New Year break. If the Centre had contacted them in advance, school children would have attended the exhibition in large numbers which would have undoubtedly proved a very educative experience for them.
Many school children today are starry eyed and anything to do with space attracts and interests them instantly. They will never miss an opportunity to attend an exhibition on Yuri Gagarin, who is a hero and role model for several of them-----including BMM!!!!!!!!!!
Less than 90 days are now left for the main celebration in India on April 12,2011. BMM understands that India's first cosmonaut, Rakesh Sharma, will be speaking at the Centre's function in New Delhi. Efforts are also underway to get him to Mumbai too. Sharma is the most appropriate choice because he was a part of the Indo-Soviet manned spaceflight project in April 1984.
The countdown for the main event has been initiated. We are eagerly awaiting the launch.