Mayor Annise Parker, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak and various other guests today participated in a dedication ceremony for artworks honoring the first two space pioneers to orbit the earth, Russian Cosmonaut Yuri A. Gagarin and United States Astronaut John H. Glenn. They are being donated to the City of Houston in commemoration of the 50th anniversary in 2011 of Cosmonaut Gagarin's orbit in space and as the first man in space and the 50th anniversary in 2012 of Astronaut Glenn's orbits in space.
“Today we see a representation of one of mankind’s greatest achievements – traveling into outer space,” said Mayor Parker. “Houston is also known as Space City, and what better way to commemorate such a great moment in history than to have artworks at NASA’s original headquarters.”
The artworks are seen as symbolic of Russia's and the United States' continuing collaboration in space exploration, particularly, on the International Space Station. The artworks stand at the Gragg Building, 2999 S. Wayside Drive, the first headquarters of NASA and currently the headquarters of the City of Houston Parks & Recreation Department.
Astronaut John H. Glenn was born in 1921. In 1942 he entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program and was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1943. During his World War II service he flew 59 combat missions. He also flew in the Korean War conflict. In 1957 Glenn flew the first transcontinental flight from Los Angeles to New York to reach average supersonic speed. In 1959 Glenn was chosen as a Project Mercury Astronaut and moved to Houston in 1962 to become part of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center. On February 20, 1962, aboard the Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft, he circumnavigated the earth three times, becoming the first American to orbit in space. Glenn achieved the rank of Colonel and served as U.S. Senator from Ohio from 1974 to 1999. He currently lives in Ohio.
Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was born in 1934. In 1955 he began military flight training and joined the Soviet Air Force. In 1960, along with 19 other pilots, he was chosen for the Soviet space program. On April 21, 1961, Cosmonaut Gagarin became the first man in space and the first to orbit the earth aboard the Vostok I. Gagarin continued his distinguished military career and achieved the rank of Colonel. He was killed in a routine training flight crash in March of 1968.
The artwork of Cosmonaut Gagarin reaching toward space is a 9' tall bronze statue created by Russian artist Aleksei Leonov. The artwork for Astronaut Glenn is an 8' 6" by 17' steel panel with an image of him in his Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft. Houston artist Randy Twaddle and architect Ron Witte have collaborated on the design and fabrication of the Glenn artwork. Installation of the artworks is being overseen by the Houston Arts Alliance, Metalab and TY Art. The gift of the artworks is being made possible by the Moscow based International Charity Public Fund Dialogue of Cultures - United World and the Russkiy Mir Foundation of Russia.
Guest speakers included in today’s ceremony were Galina Gagarina and Yuri Gagarin, daughter and grandson of Cosmonaut Gagarin; Dr. Oleg V. Kotov, Russian Air Force Colonel & Cosmonaut and Mr. Ruslan Bayramov and Ms. Sophya Tabarovsky representing the donor organizations.