Yuri’s night is a worldwide celebration held on April 12 each year to celebrate milestones in space explorations. The event got its name from Soviet Cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, who was the first human launched into space using the Vostok 1 spaceship on April 12, 1961. Yuri’s Night aims to increase public interest in space exploration and to provide inspiration for a new generation of explorers.
The celebration is moved by artistic expression and inspired by space, and concludes in a worldwide network of annual celebrations and educational events which brings together a global community of young people who are committed to molding the future of space exploration while fostering a global perspective among responsible leaders and innovators. The event was first celebrated on April 12 in 2001, on the 40th anniversary of human space flight, and the idea bloomed at the United Nation’s Space Generation Advisory Council Graz Conference in September of 2000. In 2004 Yuri’s Night was celebrated in 34 countries in over 75 individual events. Some of the locations which have celebrated the event include Los Angeles, Stockholm, Antarctica, the San Francisco Bay Area, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, and the International Space Station.
On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin made a historic 108-minute flight which orbited once around the whole Earth, blasting off the launch pad in Baikonur at 9:08 in the morning. His parachute landed near his Vostok 1 capsule in Russia’s plains. The flight made Yuri the first human to orbit the Earth, and also turned him into an international hero. Yuri was only 27 years old.
The Cosmonaut program is filled with traditions that honor Yuri’s first flight. It is an established custom to visit the Gagarin Memorial before the first mission, to sign the log book in Yuri’s unchanged office, and to urinate on the tire of the bus that brings the cosmonaut to the launch pad.
Yuri’s Night was started by Loretta Hidalgo, George T. Whitesides and Trish Garner. It was first celebrated on April 12, 2001, on the 40th anniversary of human space flight. Before this global celebration however, the Soviet Union celebrated the Cosmonautics Day in 1962.
This year’s event marks the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s historic first flight. To celebrate, the Expedition 27 crew on the International Space Station sent a special video message to the world, wishing them a Happy Yuri’s Night. The crew recorded their greetings in Russian, English, and Italian while wearing black Yuri’s night t-shirts. This year, over 200 countries will be celebrating the event, including Afghanistan, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Turkey and Ukraine are celebrating the event. In the US, a number of States are also celebrating the event, including Massachusetts, California, New York, Virginia, Texas, Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Georgia, and Virginia. Some celebrations are hosted in a bar, clubs or grills, while some celebrate it outdoors in a sky-gazing party, or celebrate the event by holding a fun run or a hiking activity for a cause.