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Yuri Gagarin to go to Royal Observatory Greenwich
Gagarin aboard Vostok prior to blast off, April 12, 1961. Photo: Courtesy of RIA Novosti.
LONDON.- The British Council, Royal Museums Greenwich, and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) announced that the statue of Yuri Gagarin, currently sited on The Mall, has found a permanent home in Britain at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

The statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, was originally unveiled on Thursday 14 July 2011 by HRH Prince Michael of Kent and the cosmonaut’s daughter, Elena Gagarina. It was a gift from Roscosmos to the British Council to mark the 50th Anniversary of Manned Space Flight. Westminster City Council granted permission for the statue to be sited on the Mall, opposite the statue of Captain Cook, for a period of 15 months. The British Council, Royal Observatory and Roscosmos have agreed that after the statue leaves the Mall, it will be installed permanently in Greenwich, subject to planning permission.

The Royal Observatory, home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian line, is one of the most important historic scientific sites in the world. Founded by Charles II in 1675, it is, by international decree, the official starting point for each new day, year and millennium (at the stroke of midnight GMT as measured from the Prime Meridian). The Observatory is part of Royal Museums Greenwich and one of the most famous features of Maritime Greenwich – since 1997 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors to the Observatory can stand in both eastern and western hemispheres simultaneously by placing their feet either side of the Prime Meridian – the centre of world time and space. The Observatory galleries unravel the extraordinary phenomena of time, space and astronomy while the Peter Harrison Planetarium allows visitors to explore the wonders of the heavens. Flamsteed House, Sir Christopher Wrens’s original building for the first Astronomer Royal, also houses a world-famous collection of time-pieces and longitudinal clocks. The Observatory was built to improve navigation at sea and 'find the so-much desired longitude of places' – one's exact position east and west – while at sea and out of sight of land, by astronomical means.

Bringing the statue of Gagarin to this famous landmark for navigation and exploration adds a new dimension to this ever-popular destination. It is hoped that the unveiling at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, will take place on 9 March 2013 (Gagarin's birthday).

Dr Kevin Fewster, Director, Royal Museums Greenwich said: “For centuries Maritime Greenwich was the starting point for voyages of discovery, while the astronomers of the Royal Observatory explored the heavens through their telescopes. In 1961 Yuri Gagarin brought these realms together. Journeying beyond the Earth, he was a true explorer and a hero for the entire planet.”

Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council said: “For over a year the statue of Yuri Gagarin outside the British Council on the Mall has delighted tourists and Brits alike, and I am pleased it will find such an ideal home at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Cultural relations with Russia have been on the up in recent years through initiatives such as the UK celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s famous flight, as well as exhibitions by William Blake, Henry Moore and Antony Gormley in Russia. Forthcoming collaborations include the celebration of Benjamin Britten’s centenary in 2013 in both Moscow and St Petersburg. I am confident that cultural initiatives such as these will boost both artistic and economic cooperation between our two countries in the lead up to the UK/Russia Year of Culture in 2014.”



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