April 12 is International Day of Human Space Flight. It was on this day in 1961 that Yuri Gagarin created history as he circled the earth on board the Vostok 1 spacecraft.

Yuri Gagarin: (In Russian, which is then translated): Yes I can assure you that there were no butterflies nor was there anything else in my stomach.

(Laughter echoes in the television studio.)

Another reporter: There is one small mystery which, I hope, possibly you may be able to clear up. On the day when you were making the flight ... on the day Moscow Radio was describing you making the flight, there appeared in our communist newspaper The Daily Worker the report that the flight had been successful and that the flier had returned to the earth. That report was dated from Moscow the day before. I am sorry to put this as suspect, but this created the impression of course that another flight had taken place and you had flown second and nobody has ever dispelled that yet. Will you do this now?

(Gagarin is seen laughing as if he almost expected such a question.) After his long answer in Russian, the translator says, “I can assure you quite authoritatively that evidently the correspondent of that paper felt he was better informed than the actual people who are in charge of this, back in the Soviet Union.”

(More laughter.)

Gagarin: No previous flight of this kind had in fact taken place either in the Soviet Union or in any other country.

The flight made on April 12 was the first flight in history of this kind ... the first manned space flight ever.

Thank you.

.... And so ends the black and white footage of an interview BBC TV had with Yuri Gagarin in 1961.

Right through, Gagarin is seen smiling and patiently answering questions put to him by the sceptical reporters

April 12, 1961, is the day when 108 minutes changed the world. It was the day of the first manned space flight. When cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin became a household name. He had circled the earth on board the Vostok 1 spacecraft. This month marks the 51st anniversary of the feat.

Once the mission was over, the Soviet Union declared April 12 as “Cosmonautics Day” and an annual holiday. Incidentally, April 12 is also the day of the maiden flight of the space shuttle. On this day, in 1981, U.S. space shuttle “Columbia” had its first orbital test flight.

April 12 has since been declared as International Day of Human Space Flight.

In its 65th sitting of the General Assembly, on April 7, 2011, the United Nations declared April 12 to be the “International day of Human Space flight”. The resolution said the first International Day in 2011 would mark the 50th anniversary of the flight by Gagarin and reaffirm “the important contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of states and peoples”.

The day was to ensure that outer space continues to be explored for peaceful purposes. The move was initiated by the Russian Federation which paid homage to Gagarin and said that exploring space had brought immense benefits to mankind in the areas of meteorology, agriculture, telecom, biology and physics. Further, the concept of a space station saw people of different countries coming together to explore space.

The resolution also focussed on Gagarin's statement during his flight where he had said he was amazed to see that “our planet is blue”.

The Russian Federation made it known that the flight was a landmark event in the 20th Century and that Gagarin's move had led to more achievements like space walks and the creation of space stations. “Today, flights into space are no longer anything extraordinary. For over 50 years, more than 500 people from 38 countries have visited space. Even the term ‘space tourism' has emerged”.

In another important statement, the U.S. representative said the Cold War “space race is over ... and we have all won”.

Yuri Gagarin was among a score of pilots chosen to develop the Soviet space programme. The 20th Century was a time that marked the great race to explore space — between the Soviet Union and the West, mainly the U.S.

In Russia, Gagarin became a hero. Across the world, newspapers spent pages publishing his biography and the exciting details of his flight. Gagarin was taken in a parade to the Kremlin and was later decorated with the highest Soviet honour, the “Hero of the Soviet Union”, by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Documents say Gagarin was finally chosen for the mission because of his modesty, his ability to handle complex mathematical concepts, for his sharp reactions and the fact that he was physically fit.

After his flight, Gagarin said the feeling of weightlessness was most striking and it felt as if a person was suspended in mid-air.

Gagarin went on a world tour which only brought him more fame. A few countries printed postal stationery with his image — stamps and covers — while some minted coins that had his engraved image.

On March 27, 1968, Gagarin died in an air crash while piloting a military aircraft.

Gagarin expressed his desire to see space being developed for peaceful purposes.

At the United Nations

On April 12, 2011, the United Nations Postal Administration issued stamps in a mini-sheet format of 16 stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of human space flight.

This year, the programme for April 12 included a panel discussion with astronauts, space scientists and writers. Students formed a part of the audience.