Yuri’s Night – A Celebration of Humanity’s First Space Flight

By Marc Boucher
March 20, 2001
Filed under

Yuri Gagarin before launch.
A historic milestone is fast approaching. On April 12th people from around the world will celebrate the
40th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s and humanity’s first flight into space. Dubbed ‘Yuri’s Night’, organizers
currently have planned 61 separate events in 28 countries on 6 continents.

Yuri’s Night was born from the desire of its two co-founders to inspire a new generation to dream again.
Loretta Hidalgo, 27, is an astrobiologist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and
the North American representative to the United Nations Space Generation Advisory Council. George Whitesides,
also 27, is a longtime space activist with a Master’s Degree in remote sensing from Cambridge University.

“Yuri’s Night is the chance for a new generation to show they believe in our future in space,” said Loretta
Hidalgo, a co-founder of the event, “and also an opportunity to inspire other young people to begin to
dream again.”

Last fall, they began spreading the idea via the Internet, and among a loose network of young space
professionals and enthusiasts.

Yuri Gagarin’s flight was short but its impact on humanity was tremendous. It energized a generation and set the
stage for the Apollo missions and the first landing on the moon. The benefits to humanity are incalculable and

On April 16, 1961, at a press conference at the Scientists Club, Moscow, Gagarin made a statement. In it he
described what he saw on his flight. These are his thoughts.

“The earth can be seen very well from the height of 175-300 kilometers. The surface looks much as it does when we
see it from jet planes at high altitudes. Big mountain ranges, big rivers, big forests, shorelines and islands
can be seen clearly. Clouds covering the earth and their shadows can be observed very well. The sky is
pitch-black. The stars look brighter and clearer against the background. The earth is surrounded by a blue
halo. It can be observed very well in the direction of the horizon. The color of the sky merges very
gradually and beautifully from a delicate light-blue, through ultramarine, dark-blue, and violet, and finally
into inky black.”

“On emerging from the shadow the sun shone through the earth’s atmosphere and the halo was of a somewhat different
color. At the very horizon, close to the surface, it was a bright-orange which they passed through all the
colors of the rainbow to ultramarine, blue, violet and black.”

“The entrance into the earth’s shadow is very rapid. It grows dark at once and nothing can be seen. Probably the
vehicle was passing over the ocean at that moment. If it had been passing over big cities I would probably
have seen their lights. The stars shine very brightly”

He ended his statement by saying; “Personally I want to fly a lot in outer space. I liked it. I want to fly to Venus,
to Mars, to do some real flying.”

Sadly Yuri’s life ended tragically on March 27, 1968 when he was killed while training in a jet. He was 34.

Forty years after his historic flight he still inspires people and although no humans have flown
to Venus or Mars as he would have liked we can only hope that in the not too
distant future humanity will do “some real flying”.

In the meantime celebrate Yuri’s night.

Related links:

° Yuri’s Night

Background Information

° RSC Energia Vostok 1 Anniversary Photo Album: Gagarin As He Was

° RSC Energia Vostok 1 Anniversary Photo Album: The Road to Space

° RSC Energia Vostok 1 Anniversary Photo Album: The Space Age Has Begun

° Planetary Society Celebrates Yuri’s Night, April 12

“Venues around the world will commemorate Yuri’s Night in a variety of ways, ranging from dance parties at local clubs to discussions of current and future space missions. 61 separate events in 28 countries are scheduled, with more being added daily to the website listings. Locales hosting events include Melbourne, Toronto, Paris, Tokyo, Manila, Lisbon, Moscow, Capetown,
Istanbul, London, Los Angeles, Houston, and even the Scott-Admunsen Base at the South Pole. All the parties will be linked together into one global web event, starting with parties in Ankara and Sydney at 1:00 AM PDT on Thursday April 12th and finishing at the end of the Vancouver party at 8:00 AM PDT on Friday, April 13th.”

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.