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April 12 is a special day in the history of world space exploration. 58 years ago, on April 12, 1961, Soviet pilot Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel into space, beginning the era of manned space flights. Senior lieutenant Gagarin blasted off aboard the Vostok spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome built in the Kazakh steppes by thousands of Soviet specialists, thus becoming the world's first cosmonaut, and the Baikonur Cosmodrome became the Earth's space harbor.
This site also launched the Vostok, Soyuz and Voskhod spacecrafts, the Mir and Salyut orbital stations, the Energia – Buran reusable space system, as well as artificial satellites and spacecrafts still exploring the previously inaccessible Solar system.
Despite the rapid exploration of outer space in the 21st century and the emergence of new space powers, it is the Baikonur Cosmodrome that remains the launch site for more than half of all spacecraft in the world, a global leader in the exploration of near-Earth space and the development of space science.
For modern Kazakhstan, space activity is no longer just a matter of national pride. The development and use of near-Earth space is intended to become a significant resource for national development, offering real improvement in the quality of life of Kazakhs.
Space activity in Kazakhstan, with its vast territory and rich resources, promotes the country's geopolitical, economic, scientific and practical interests. It supports the exchange of information throughout the country, the study and use of natural resources, and the conducting of environmental monitoring.
Space exploration opens up unlimited possibilities for solving completely new tasks in communication and television broadcasting, Earth's remote sensing, high-precision determination of location of objects and control of their movement, meteorology and many other areas.
Today is a uniting holiday, because it commemorates a common breakthrough in the development of humankind. During the years of independence of Kazakhstan, thanks to the direct support and attention of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan - Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev, the KazSat space communication and broadcast system, the KazEOSat Earth's remote sensing system, and high-precision satellite navigation systems were created. In Nur-Sultan, the Spacecraft Assembling and Testing Facility is being built at the National Space Center. Domestic scientific research in the space industry is successfully developing.
Today, Kazakhstan faces a strategic task to create, together with Russia, the Baiterek launch facility at the Baikonur launch site and further utilise the launch site in the interests of Kazakhstan and Russia.
Over the past decade, Kazakhstan has made successful steps to develop its space industry, but there is still more that can be done.
Several Kazakh cosmonauts - Toktar Aubakirov, Talgat Mussabayev and Aydin Aimbetov - are key figures in the modern development of global manned space exploration.
Toktar Aubakirov – the 72nd and last cosmonaut of the USSR, and first Kazakh cosmonaut - was awarded the titles of Khalyk Kaharmany, Hero of the Soviet Union, Merited Test Pilot of the USSR, and Major General of the Air Force of Kazakhstan.
On October 2, 1991, he was launched into space with Alexander Volkov (the launch crew commander) and Austrian cosmonaut Franz Viehböck as a cosmonaut-researcher of the Soyuz TM-13 spacecraft. During the week he worked on board the Mir orbital station. The duration of stay in space was 7 days 22 hours 13 minutes. On October 10, 1991, he returned to Earth with Anatoly Artsebarsky (the landing commander) and Austrian cosmonaut Franz Viehböck aboard the Soyuz TM-12 spacecraft.
Talgat Musabayev was the first cosmonaut of independent Kazakhstan, who was awarded the titles Khalyk Khaharmany, Hero of Russia, pilot-cosmonaut of Russia, cosmonaut of the 1st class, and Lieutenant-General of Aviation of the Republic of Kazakhstan. He was registered in the Guinness Book of Records, and he is also the world's 309th cosmonaut.
He performed three space expeditions: July 1 to November 4, 1994 as a flight engineer of the Soyuz TM-19 spacecraft; from January 29 to August 25, 1998 as the commander of the Soyuz TM-27 spacecraft; from April 28 to May 6, 2001, as the commander of the Soyuz TM-32 spacecraft and the first post-soviet Russian expedition visiting the ISS. This flight was performed with Russian cosmonaut Yuri Baturin and the first space tourist in the world, US billionaire Dennis Tito. It is this expedition which began the era of space tourism.
Mr. Musabayev was the first Kazakh in outer space. For the first time in history, he took the flag and the coat of arms of the Republic of Kazakhstan into space in 1994, then two more times, in 1998 and 2001. The total duration of his stay in space is 341 days 9 hours 48 minutes 41 seconds.
Aydin Aimbetov is the third Kazakh cosmonaut, the first cosmonaut of Kazkosmos, the 545th cosmonaut of the world, who was awarded the title of Khalyk Khaharmany (2015), and Major General of the Air Force of Kazakhstan.
From September 2 to September 12, 2015, he made a space flight as a flight engineer of the Soyuz TMA-18M manned transport vehicle (MTV) to the International Space Station (ISS). He was a member of the visiting crew VC-18 to the ISS. He returned to Earth on Soyuz TMA-16M MTV. The flight lasted 9 days 20 hours 13 minutes 51 seconds.
Kazakhstan is not only a place to launch space missions, but also a “home" for many researchers after the completion of space expeditions.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan congratulates all specialists of global space exploration, wishing them good health, happiness, family well-being and every success in their endeavors!
For more information about the cosmonauts of the Republic of Kazakhstan, please visit the website.