It's a shame that what Yuri Gagarin achieved will forever be equated with the Cold War and the Soviets and Americans ideological tussle rather than as one of our greatest achievements.
On the news channel RT (Russia Today) they were describing Gagarin's double of being the first human in space and the first human to orbit the earth as the most important achievement in the space race. As they would being proud Russians.
Over on CNN, it was acknowledged as a great achievement but they argued that the Apollo 11 mission and Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon as the pinnacle of the space race. As they would being rightly proud Americans.
Neil Armstrong is undoubtedly the more famous and his actions more symbolic but without Gagarin, Armstrong wouldn't have been stepping off that lander and into the history books.
Yuri’s space flight ensured that President John F Kennedy pushed the USA’s space ambitions up the list of priorities and there probably wouldn’t have been a man on the Moon just nine years later. Gagarin’s achievement could be said to have changed the course of world history.
Gagarin's could be the most important for mankind, he paved the way for every astronaut that followed, but Armstrong's the more significant because it showed man can leave our own planet, stand on other bodies in the solar system and return safely.
Unfortunately, once the moon was landed upon the space program cooled and the next giant step of a man on Mars, never materialised and due to financial constraints, is unlikely to be revived in our lifetime.
So instead of regressing back to the days of the Cold War we should celebrate both the Soviet and Americans feats, both as hugely important as each other and spare a sad thought for little Laika too who beat them both out of the Earths atmosphere.