THIS month marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the space race.

The Russian satellite "Sputnik" was the first man-made object to leave the Earth's atmosphere on October 4, 1957.

Remarkably just four years later on April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.

Almost as soon as he came back down to earth he was sent on another trip, this time on a world tour celebrating the Soviet success.

Trafford Through Time looks back at the day - three months after his momentous flight in Vostok 1 - that the man hailed a hero around the globe visited the area on July 12 1961.

GAGARIN'S visit to Trafford was extraordinary because it came at the height of the Cold War.

The ideological and security clash between east and west was also territorial and it had spread into space, the "final frontier".

Despite this Gagarin received a hero's welcome in Manchester, with thousands of factory workers in Trafford Park downing tools to get a glimpse of the first man in space.

Gagarin landed at Ringway Airport and travelled in an open top car to the offices of the Amalgamated Union of Foundry Workers, at Brook's Bar, in Old Trafford.

The spaceman - who had worked as a foundry worker before becoming a pilot - then visited Metropolitan Vickers in Trafford Park.

Former Stretford resident Norman Scott, aged 76, worked as a draughtsman in the factory's offices.

He explained: "I was stood with lots of other people at the north gate entrance as Gagarin was driven in an open top car and then sped down the avenue where there were crowds of people cheering.

"In the early 1960s more than 20,000 people worked at Metros and I remember had been a real buzz about our office when we found out Gagarin was visiting.

"It was all the more exciting for me because just a few years earlier myself and a group of friends had been stood on Kersal Moor and watched out for the "bright dot" that was Sputnik 1 as it orbited the planet."

Norman, who now works as a volunteer at Manchester's Air and Space Museum, added: "His visit was a big occasion - certainly as exciting as when Harold Wilson visited as Prime Minister a few years later.

"I mean it was such a massive achievement to be the first man in space and everyone stopped work to go and have a look at him."

During his visit Gagarin also met Sir Bernard Lovell, whose super-sized telescope at Jodrell Bank had been the only instrument in the west capable of tracking Sputnik in 1957.

Gagarin died in a training accident on March 27, 1968.

Do you remember Gagarin's visit? Post your comments below.

*Trafford Through Time has uncovered stories that companies in Trafford Park may have manufactured parts for Sputnik.

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