Today is the 18th, and I am 6 days overdue in blogging about Yuri's Night, the annual celebration of Yuri Gagarin's space flight on April 12, 1961 -- 49 years ago, the day when the first human being travelled beyond the Earth's atmosphere into outer space.
On Yuri's Night, 2010, there were 13 people in orbit -- one more than all the cosmonauts and astronauts who flew in the Vostok and Mercury programmes combined.
Expedition 23 on the International Space Station consisted of six people -- Mission Commander Oleg Kotov (RKA), T.J. Creamer (NASA), Soichi Noguchi (JAXA), Tracy Caldwell Dyson (NASA), Alexander Skvortsov (RKA) and Mikhail Kornienko (RKA).
At the same time, space shuttle Discovery, flying on mission STS-131 and docked at the space station from a week earlier, had seven people on board -- Commander Alan Poindexter, Pilot James P. Dutton Jr., Mission Specialists Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, Rick Mastracchio, Clayton Anderson (all with NASA) and Naoko Yamazaki (JAXA).
Gagarin, first man in space, would have appreciated that 49 years later, there are still firsts being achieved. On this occasion, the first time that four women were in space at the same time (Caldwell Dyson, Metcalf-Lindenburger, Wilson, Yamazaki) and the first time that two Japanese astronauts were in space together (Noguchi, Yamazaki).