The Space Race heightened tensions between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Technological advancements in spaceflight achievement skyrocketed during this competition, with the launch of the first artificial satellite, space probes to the Moon, Venus, and Mars, and human spaceflight in low Earth orbit.  

Artist’s impression of Sputnik 1 in orbit | Source: Wikipedia

The Soviet Union was able to launch the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, into space in 1957. The first successful lunar probe was launched and impacted the moon in 1959, after five attempts. 

Yuri Gagarin | Source: Wikipedia

Yuri Gagarin was launched into space on Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961. His flight was the first successful human spaceflight, with Yuri Gagarin becoming a Soviet hero after the Vostok mission. Two years later, the first woman cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, was launched into space.  

Yuri Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova, and Nikita Khrushchev at Lenin’s Mausoleum on 22 June 1963 | Source: Wikipedia

The first successful moon landing in July 1969 is said to have been the end of the Space Race. Following a temporary truce in the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union conducted a joint project, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. This cooperative spirit continued with the Shuttle-Mir and International Space Station programs.  

Yuri Gagarin: 60 Years of Space Travel | Source: Banknote World

In recognition for their contributions to human spaceflight, Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova have been commemorated in coins.  

USSR 1 Rouble First Woman in Space | 1983 | Source: Numista

Russia issued two commemorative coins for Valentina Tereshkova—one in 1983 and another in 2023. The 1-ruble coin from 1983 is a copper-nickel coin that commemorated the 20th anniversary of Tereshkova’s flight. Meanwhile, the 3-ruble coin from 2023 commemorates the 60th anniversary of her flight.

Russia 3 Roubles Valentina Tereshkova | 2023 | Source: Numista

As a Soviet hero and international celebrity, Yuri Gagarin and his spaceflight has also been commemorated in coins from around the world.  

Kazakhstan 500 Tenge The First Cosmonaut – Yuri Gagarin | 2011 | Source: Numista

For instance, 500-tenge coin from Kazakhstan was issued in 2011 to celebrate the first cosmonaut. It is a bimetallic coin that heavily featured Gagarin and the Vostok 1. San Marino also issued a silver 5-euro coin in 2011 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first space flight.

San Marino 5 Euros Manned Space Flight | 2011 | Source: Numista

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