The Queen has highlighted probably the most essential fact when planning a trip into outer space – the importance of returning home.
Experts and schoolchildren joined the Queen in a virtual event to mark British Science Week, showcasing the latest pictures from Nasa’s mission to Mars and classroom rockets made by the pupils.
An image of the Winchcombe meteorite that recently fell to earth in the Gloucestershire town of the same name was shown to the Queen, who said: “I’m glad it didn’t hit anyone.”
The video call symposium was held on Wednesday, just a few days after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s bombshell interview in which they accused the royal family of racism and a lack of support.
The Queen met the first man in space – Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – in 1961 soon after his historic mission, and when she was asked during the video call what he was like, she made everyone laugh by replying: “Russian.”
She explained he did not speak English, and added: “It was very interesting to meet him, and I suppose being the first one, it was particularly fascinating.”
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a scientist and co-presenter on the BBC’s The Sky At Night programme, said of Gagarin: “It must have been very terrifying to be the first one, and not really knowing what was going to happen.”
The Queen quipped: “Well, yes – and if you could come back again. That’s very important.”
Gagarin went on a world tour soon after his space mission in April 1961 and was invited to lunch at Buckingham Palace by the Queen, and he also met then prime minister Harold Macmillan.
Dr Aderin-Pocock, said after the video call with the Queen: “When I mentioned Yuri Gagarin to her I couldn’t believe her answer. It was not what I expected, she made us all laugh.
“She has a wonderful sense of humour and it makes you realise, given the fact that he died in 1968, how long she has been our monarch. She is living history, in fact.”
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