Two of the world's most famous early astronauts — the former Soviet Union's Yuri Gagarin and American John Glenn — are soon to be immortalized in Space City. Mayor Annise Parker, city officials and representatives from Russia took part in a ground-breaking ceremony Thursday for the commemorative pieces of artwork set to be installed in front of the city's Department of Parks and Recreation Department, a building that served as one of the original NASA headquarters.
Russia donated a bronze statue of Gagarin with his arms outstretched to the city of Houston. A steel panel art piece that depicts Glenn in his space capsule will stand behind the statue. Gagarin was the first human to venture into space while Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth.
Russia donated a bronze statue of Gagarin with his arms outstretched to the city of Houston. Behind the bronze statue will stand a steel panel art piece that depicts Glenn in his space capsule.
Gagarin and Glenn were part of the "space race" — the heated competition between the two superpowers for space supremacy in the 1960's. Gagarin shot into space on the Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961. He never participated in any flights to space after his first historic one and he ultimately passed away in a plane crash in 1968.
Glenn's earth-orbiting voyage aboard the Friendship 7 propelled him to fame. He was elected U.S. senator from Ohio in 1974 and served for 24 years. He was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990 and, eight years later, became the oldest man to fly in space when he took part in a shuttle flight at age 77.
The two famous astronauts standing side-by-side represents current and future cooperation between the American and Russian space programs. This comes at a time in which the two countries have begun to share the International Space Station with each other and three other countries.
At the groundbreaking, Parker said that now "the United States and Russia are mutually dependent on each other for space travel."
The project, including the 9-foot sculpture and 8-foot-6-inch panel, will cost $85,000, all of which was acquired through donations and private funding. The city hopes to complete the project by October.