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Watch: Moscow Zoo panda marks 60 years since nation's first human space flight

Russia today marked 60 years since Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.

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The big bear checked out the bamboo rocket ship briefly, before deciding to abort the mission and eat it instead. Source: Breakfast

People across the country commemorated the anniversary by laying flowers, planting trees and organising a concert.

At the Moscow Zoo, however, the commemoration involved a feast in the panda enclosure — with an edible bamboo rocket.

The feat was also praised from space itself, in a message by Russian cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov on board the International Space Station.

Gagarin's steely self-control was a key factor behind the success of his pioneering 108-minute spaceflight.

His mission, on April 12 1961, encountered glitches and emergencies, from the capsule's entry hatch failing to shut properly just before blastoff, to a parachute misfire in the final moments before touchdown.

But the successful one-orbit flight turned Gagarin, then aged 27, into a national icon.

Gagarin was flown to Moscow to a hero's welcome, hailed by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, and cheered by enthusiastic crowds who celebrated his flight as a triumph on par with the country's victory in World War II.

His achievement cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.

By then, Gagarin had died in a training jet crash at the age of 34.