PS: This article was originally written for the 5th edition of Oko! Magazine published on July 2019, recent activities in earth’s low orbit felt like a perfect occasion to re-publish it on our online platform.
last year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the successful Apollo 11 mission, during which Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. made history by setting humankind’s first steps on the moon. The occasion was observed by over 600 million people back home, and marked a major victory for the Americans in the ongoing Space Race between themselves and Cold War rivals, the Soviet Union. It was a bitter contest in which the USSR had already boasted significant wins such as the launch of Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, on the 4th of October, 1957, and sending the first human into space, Yuri Gagarin, on 12 April 1961.
All these talks about space had us at Oko! wondering whether there was any Czech involvement in the past, present or future of space flight. To our surprise, we discovered that the first man in space who was neither American nor Russian was Vladimír Remek, born on the 26th of September 1948 in České Budějovice, then Czechoslovakia.
On the 2nd of March, 1978, the Soyuz 28 spaceship lifted off from a launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan. It was the first mission in the Interkosmos Space Program, intended to give the Soviets’ Eastern Bloc allies access to space. During a 2018 interview with Radio Prague, Mr. Remek spoke of having a passion for space ever since he witnessed the launch of Sputnik 1, and that besides flying under the Soviet flag, he was proud to have given his country a space on the interstellar stage.
“Before me, there was the same number of Soviet and US cosmonauts, 43. So I became the 87th earthling to see our planet from outer space. I felt I was doing something for my country. It was, to use sporting terminology, a place on the podium, third spot. I was proud of the opportunity and that I’d fulfilled a boyhood dream. I saw in many ways how it had boosted the visibility of Czechoslovakia around the world.” said Remek during his interview with Radio Prague.
Since 2008 the Czech Republic’s flag is proudly hoisted alongside those of the European Space Agency’s other Member States, officially symbolizing the country becoming the 18th Member State. In 2019, the Czech Republic’s financial contribution to the European Space Agency is 33.1million Euros, a similar amount to countries such as Denmark, Finland, and Poland.
Prague is also home to the European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency (GSA) headquarters, which provides invaluable information through satellites which assist in fields such as transport, farming, logistics, and our daily lives.
To say that the Czech Republic has had a presence in international space technology would be an understatement. From its role in the early stages of the Cold War space race to today, the Czech Republic has a rich history within the industry. And with its involvement in current satellite technologies, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the Czech Republic will be an essential player in the future of aviation and space.