The fiftieth anniversary of the first ever human spaceflight, by Soviet Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was on 12th April 2011, with staff and students from the Modelmaking course at the Arts University Bournemouth in Bournemouth getting involved with this historic event through a published book and scale model of Yuri’s spacecraft, the ‘Vostok’.

‘Yuri’s Day’, a 64 page graphic novel about the events and characters behind what Russians call the ‘First Flight’ was published in December 2010. It was co-written, story-edited, researched and illustrated by Modelmaking Lecturer Andrew J King, in collaboration with science writer and producer Piers Bizony. (www.yuri.gagarin.com)

Publication of ‘Yuri’s Day’ unexpectedly sparked huge media interest in the countries of the former Soviet Union and Lecturer Andrew was interviewed by both Russian and Ukrainian State television leading to the production of a Russian language edition.

‘Yuri’s Day’ used a number of reference models as illustrations for the book, but the real modelmaking took place through contacts made with the organisers of the Gagarin50, an exhibition that celebrates Yuri’s historic flight and his subsequent visit to Manchester and Trafford in the July of 1961. The exhibition combines archive photography, fine art, video, Soviet space memorabilia and witness accounts to reveal and reflect on Gagarin as family man, cosmonaut and icon through archive photographs and rarely-seen artefacts from the extraordinary Cold War era in which he lived.

An important part of the exhibition is a scale model of Yuri’s spacecraft, the ‘Vostok’, as it would have appeared during the orbital part of its flight. The detailed and carefully researched 1:20 scale model was created by second year Modelmaking student Kirsty Obbard from plans and photographs published after the end of the Cold War.