To celebrate the 50th anniversary of manned space travel, Attic Room Productions has released First Orbit, a 99-minute free film that recreates Yuri Gagarin's historic launch into space on April 12, 1961 -- in real time. We watched the whole film, which was shot entirely in space from on board the International Space Station. And it's breathtaking. We were especially blown away by the re-entry sequence, starting at about 1:10:00.
A few other links you may enjoy:
Google's April 12, 2011 home page
The making of First Orbit
Video from 1961, complete with synthesizers
Gagarin's Life in Pictures, from the Russian Archives
Gagarin's 1961 interview with the BBC
Finally, and for purely personal and sentimental reasons, here's Ray Bradbury's heartbreaking 1951 short story "The Rocket Man," the first thing we ever read that filled us with longing for space travel.
Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly.