What is Yuri's Night?
Content taken from Yuri's Night International webiste.
Yuri's Night is a global celebration of humanity's past, present, and future in space.
Yuri's Night parties and events are held around the world every April in commemoration of
April 12, 1961, the day of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's first manned spaceflight, and April
12, 1981, the inaugural launch of NASA's Space Shuttle.
Yuri's Night events combine space-themed partying with education and outreach. These events can range from an all-night mix of techno and technology at a NASA Center, to a movie showing and stargazing at your local college, to a gathering of friends at a bar or barbecue.
Since its start, Yuri's Night has:
- Featured talks and presentations by Ray Bradbury, Will Wright, George Takei, Richard Garriott, Anousheh Ansari, and many others
- Been celebrated at the South Pole, Hayden Planetarium, and in orbit on the International Space Station
- Planted hundreds of "moon trees" around the world in collaboration with American Forests
- Received the "Best Presentation of Space" award from the Space Frontier Foundation
- Developed the next generation of space leaders for organizations such as the National Space Society, Virgin Galactic, and Armadillo Aerospace
History of Yuri's Night:
Human Spaceflight became a reality 50 years ago with the launch of a bell-shaped capsule called "Vostok 1" on April 12th, 1961. The capsule was carrying Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who took his place in history as the first human to leave the bounds of Earth and enter outer space.
Exactly 20 years later, the United States embarked on a new era in spaceflight with the inaugural launch of a new type of spaceship — the Space Shuttle (April 12th, 1981). Designed to carry a larger crew and large volumes of cargo to orbit, the Space Shuttles became synonymous with human spaceflight for an entirely new generation of young people.
When the next 20-year point arrived, that generation (often called "Gen X") laid a new space milestone by connecting thousands of people around the world to celebrate and honor the past, while building a stairway to the future. That event was Yuri's Night, and it continues to bring the excitement, passion and promise of space travel closer to people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds.
For more detailed background on the events behind Yuri's Night, continue reading below.
Wednesday 12 April 1961: Vostok 1
On 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin blasted off the launch pad in Baikonur at 9:08 AM local time. His call-sign for the flight was "Cedar." Sergei Korolev, the Program's Chief Designer, would call from the ground, "Dawn" calling "Cedar." Gagarin made his historic 108 minute flight (orbiting around the whole Earth once) and parachute landed near his Vostok 1 capsule in the plains of Russia. This flight made him the first human to orbit the Earth and an international hero. Yuri was only 27 years old.
Seven years after his flight, on Wednesday 27 March 1968, Yuri was piloting a MiG-15 when he got into a tragic crash that ended his life. He was 34. People say that that is why John Glenn was not allowed to fly again for so long – to protect him. Yuri is survived by his wife Valentina and his two daughters, Lenochka and Galochka.
The Cosmonaut program is rich with traditions that honor Yuri's first flight. It is customary to visit the Gagarin Memorial before your mission, to sign the log book in Yuri's unchanged office, and to urinate on the tire of the bus that brings you to the launch pad (mostly because Yuri had to himself right before his flight). We hope the world will celebrate 12 April together and create new traditions of space and unity.
- Vostok 1 flight summary, from Mark Wade's Encyclopedia Astronautica.
- Yuri Gagarin: His Life in Pictures, from Russian Archives Online.
- Yuri Gagarin on Wikipedia.
Saturday 12 April 1981: STS-1
As if by cosmic coincidence (the launch had to be slipped two days to fix a computer glitch), the US Space Shuttle's maiden voyage fell on April 12th 1981, exactly 20 years later. The ship was Columbia, and her crew for STS-1 (Space Transportation System, flight 1) was Commander John Young and Pilot Bob Crippen.
The flight lasted two days and then Columbia returned for a glorious landing at Southern California's Edwards Air Force Base, giving the world its first reusable spacecraft, a ship that would later be used to take Astronauts, Cosmonauts, and equipment to the Russian Space Station Mir in an amazing demonstration of complimentary space assets and international cooperation. (A reusable craft works nicely with a permanent space station, especially when one's systems produce water as a byproduct and the other's require the input of water.)
Now the Shuttle program has recently celebrated its 130th launch. There have been 5 orbiters built, 3 of which are still flying today: Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour. (Two others, Challenger and Columbia, were tragically lost in 1986 and 2003.) If you have never seen a shuttle launch, I highly recommend it – it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
- STS-1 mission summary, from the NASA/Kennedy Space Center site.
Thursday 12 April 2001: Launch of Yuri's Night
After being just an idea for four years, Yuri's Night, the World Party for Space, sprang into existence at the United Nations' Space Generation Advisory Council Graz Conference in September of 2000. Trish Garner, George Whitesides, and Loretta Hidalgo announced the kickoff of the event and released the first version of our website.
Seven months later, they had a buzzing team of space activists and party planners in Los Angeles and 64 events around the world. Our global space community was ready to spring into action to make a difference.
Felipe Hernandez (or Astrolipe), a DJ/space architect from Chile, was interviewed by CNN en Espanol, Loretta was on the KNBC local news live in the studio, Chris Welch was on BBC Radio, and George was on both NPR Morning Edition and MTV's Mandy Moore Summer Special – where he was highlighted as a good guy for his efforts to bring the planet together to dance for space.
The parties were all extraordinary. In Mission Control we had a countdown to the first party in Sydney, and then they just continued to roll around the planet. Melbourne had a posh affair with space cocktails; the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station did a toast; Cape Town celebrated with a space wedding complete with a Shuttle cake; Vancouver, London, Leiden, Istanbul, Brollin, and Dublin all had large dance parties; Boston put on a full day of events; and in Houston even the NASA brass showed up to get down.
Here in LA things went beautifully. We had the Lunar Rover parked out front, the live webcast of our event and our interviews with VIPs being broadcast around the world, the most kicking DJs who rocked the house, an awesome crowd that just loved the music and the vibe, amazing video work of our historical, current and fictional space footage projected on the main screen, an excellent laser system, and the best silver bikini clad go-go dancers in the Milky Way.
After the party young people from the LA club scene told us it was the best party they had been to and thanked us for creating such an awesome space. Young engineers from JPL stopped and told us it was the most fun they had had out in a long time. We succeeded in doing what we had set out to do – bring together the people who really work for space with the people who think space is cool and want to be a part of it.
We hope you will join us on our adventure this year. We know you want to.
Content taken from Yuri's Night International webiste.