Yuri's Night, or Cosmonauts Day
"Circling the earth in my orbital spaceship I marveled at its beauty. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty, not destroy it!" -- Yuri Gagarin
Yuri's Night, also referred to as Cosmonauts Day, is celebrated annually on April 12. This celebration is in honor of Yuri Gagarin, who became the first human in space on April 12, 1961. Twenty years later on the same day the U.S. launched the first space shuttle.
The celebration of Cosmonauts Day began in the Soviet Union in 1962, on the first anniversary of Gagarin successful flight into space, and was celebrated annually in the USSR and then Russia.
The idea for a worldwide celebration of space and technology sprang into existence at the United Nations' Space Generation Advisory Council Conference in September of 2000. The new, worldwide Yuri's Night was first celebrated on April 12, 2001 and has since become an annual international celebration.
Yuri's Night not only celebrates space and technology, but also the principles of freethinking. Once people thought that the other planets travelled around Earth. It took courage as well as intelligence for people to argue against the religiously-ordained view of the Earth as the center of the universe. Celebrating Yuri's Night not only is about celebrating his historic achievement, but all accomplishments of science that have overturned dogma and advanced our knowledge of our universe.
Yuri's Night has become an international phenomenon since its introduction in 2001. Every year coordinators and participants look to broaden the spectrum of events held. The range of events is as diverse as the people who hold them; even residents of the International Space Station have been known to join in the fun. Whether in someone's living room, a nightclub or a world-class science museum, Cosmonauts Day events all have one thing in common: people who are excited about space exploration, science, freethought, and want to join together to celebrate it. Participating in Cosmonauts Day isn't difficult: if finding an already existing party near is hard, then get your friends together call it a Yuri's Night party. Getting people to think about space, science, and freethought is the focus no matter the venue.