Editorial: 60 years ago today we crossed the threshold into space | Editorial

Yuri Gagarin

Arto Jousi // Wikimedia Commons

He wasn’t one of us – if by “our” you mean American, but the further we go into space, the less terrestrial differences like nationality will matter.

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was a Russian – a Soviet as it was then – and 60 years ago today he was the first person in space.

This is an achievement that we should welcome, regardless of which country he came from or which political system he was loyal to.

We Americans grew up idolizing our own heroes as we should.

Tom Wolfe, a Richmond graduate from Washington and Lee University, gave us The Right Stuff, and then Hollywood gave us a movie.

More recently, we’ve been intrigued by learning about other heroes – heroines, to be precise – that we didn’t know existed.

“Hidden Figures,” first the book by Margot Shetterly and later the film, told the stories of the black women whose math skills helped bring the white men of “The Right Stuff” into space.

To be historically honest, let’s remember the famous quote about dancer Fred Astaire: “Sure, he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, backwards … and in high Heels. “

The Russians made the big space premieres first – and with far less technology. Americans took off into space from the sunny beaches of Florida. The Soviets had engineers who lived in converted freight cars in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

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