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Space Anniversaries Galore: Gagarin, Shuttle And Apollo 13

Soviet cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin, first man to orbit the earth, is shown in his space suit in thi i i

Yuri Gargarin. (AP Photo) hide caption

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Soviet cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin, first man to orbit the earth, is shown in his space suit in thi

Yuri Gargarin. (AP Photo)

There's plenty of space-related history to look back on today, and the crews of space shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station are taking some time to look back.

As CBS News' STS-131 Status Report blog and NPR's Joe Palca report, today marks the 49th anniversary of the first manned flight in space — it was Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin who made that historic trip. And, this is the 29th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight. Here is Joe's report:

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The CBS blog adds that:

Space station Flight Director Ed Van Cise. says this is "a good day in general to reflect on the fact that we have a lot of amazing things going on in space flight now. We have four women in space for the first time ever, we have two Japanese (astronauts) in space for the first time ever and we have three Russians living long term on space station for the first time. So there are a lot of firsts going on in space right now."

The shuttle and space station crews (who are together) have been given a half-day off today.

But there's another important anniversary this week as well, of what NASA.gov says might have been "a feat almost as impressive as a successful moon landing" — the safe return of the Apollo 13 mission.

Apollo 13 launched on April 11, 1970. On April 13, an oxygen tank on the service module exploded. "Houston, we've had a problem," astronaut Jack Swigert and Commander Jim Lovell both radioed back (yes, if you listen carefully at the NASA link it's "we've had a problem," not "we have a problem". Running out of oxygen and power, the crew used the lunar module as emergency quarters. They made it back safely on April 17. The drama was captured, you'll recall, in the 1995 Tom Hanks movie Apollo 13.

NBC-TV's Dateline has posted several videos of its looks back at the Apollo 13 mission, including this one:

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