Russia Accuses U.S. State Department of 'Memory Loss' Over First Man in Space Yuri Gagarin

Russian officials have continued to criticise the U.S. state department on social media this week after the agency did not mention cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in a Facebook post about "International Day of Human Space Flight."

"Regrettably, the US State Department has again demonstrated memory loss regarding the history of space exploration," the Embassy of Russia in the USA said in a statement on Monday, accusing the state department "distorting the memory" of Gagarin.

In its earlier Facebook update, the U.S. agency had said the date marked "technological advances space exploration brings and the international cooperation it fosters," without noting Gagarin's well-documented achievements in Soviet-era space flight.

International Day of Human Space Flight is on April 12, which was the same date that Gagarin carried out the first-ever human space flight back in 1961.

The Russian embassy's social media post in response to the apparent snub continued: "Our forgetful colleagues can find the bust of the space pioneer at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C." It added: "Sculptures of Yuri Gagarin also were erected in Cleveland, Colorado Springs, New York City, Houston and Chicago."

The head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, fumed in response to the state department on Monday: "A**holes. Superpowers do not behave that way."

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Earlier on Monday, Russia's Foreign Ministry accused the state department of using "disinformation" about the annual commemoration on April 12.

The ministry wrote: "We remind our colleagues from the US State Department that the first person in space was a Soviet astronaut, his name is Yuri Alekseevich Gagarin. Not to mention this is disinformation and a base trick of the post-truth epoch."

The state department's post has since been bombarded with responses about Gagarin. The agency previously declined to comment when contacted by Newsweek.

As detailed by NASA, the Soviet cosmonaut conducted a 108-minute orbital flight in the Vostok 1 spacecraft. Gagarin died during a training flight on March 27, 1968. Astronaut Alan Shepard earned the title of the first American in space roughly a month later.

While International Day of Human Space Flight has indeed commemorated Gagarin's historic space flight since 2011, it has grown to be broader in scope.

The United Nations said in a release on Monday it also celebrates the "achievements of astronauts who are 'stretching the boundaries' of where civilization can go."

Happy International day of #HumanSpaceFlight!

On this special 60th anniversary of #YuriGagarin 1st flight, here is a message from #UNOOSA Director @SDiPippo_OOSA, introducing our series of messages from astronauts all over the world!#HumanSpaceFlight60

— UNOOSA (@UNOOSA) April 12, 2021

Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, said on Monday: "Astronauts are envoys of humankind in outer space, embodying talent, skills and bravery; stretching the boundaries of what we can achieve as a civilization.

"As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of Gagarin's historic journey... let us celebrate the achievements of the astronauts who have flown after him and hear what this experience has meant to them and what the future of space exploration may hold."

European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake posted a tribute to Gagarin on Twitter on Monday, writing: "From humble beginnings, he paved the way for others to follow."

Yuri Gagarin, Russian cosmonaut
Yuri Gagarin, Russian cosmonaut, 1961. Gagarin (1934-1968) became the first man in space when he orbited the Earth aboard Vostok 1 on 12 April 1961. He was killed in a plane crash while on a routine training flight on 27 March 1968. Fine Art Images/Heritage Images//Getty Images

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