April 12th, 2013
08:20 PM ET

World, minus America, celebrates Yuri's Night

Right now, 300 celebrations in more than 50 different countries on every continent are happening. Why?

On this day in 1961 – 52 years ago – Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space when he spent 108 minutes orbiting the Earth.

It paved the way for all of the rockets and shuttles and space stations that have come since, and every year since 2001, thousands of people around the world gather to celebrate his flight – on Yuri's Night.

Yet most of us in the United States have never heard of it. Even though Yuri's flight was a huge breakthrough for all of mankind, America tends to just celebrate its own guys.

John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, these are the names that we know. And even though there are space agencies in more than 20 countries around the world – and we have an International Space Station – many Americans think of everything as just NASA.

And that's a shame, because in a time when most of the rocket-related stories are about military posturing and threats of attack, it's nice to be reminded that countries can still work together for the common good.

Filed under: Erin's Essay • News • Science
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Joey at Purdue Univ

    Yeah, I heard there's a big party tonight at the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering tonight...

    Heard a TED talk today on how the biggest significance of space exploration was the way it galvanizes humankind into a common experience. Pretty impressive speaker, too: 19-y/o kid, spent the last 3 summers interning at NASA's JPL Dept. working on the Mars Curiosity Rover! I guess that's one of the cool parts of going one of the top universities for astronauts.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:01 pm | Reply

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