This April will see the 50th anniversary of the most important event in all of human history: the first time any of us left the planet. On April 12, 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin pierced Earthâ€™s thin shell of atmosphere to (literally) boldly go where no one had gone before. Yuri orbited the earth once in the Vostok 1, taking 108 minutes. Admittedly, this is a bit like dipping the tip of your toe into the ocean and considering yourself a great mariner, but many of us hope this event will be remembered as the first day of the migration of humanity to the stars.
That day should be commemorated.
In 2001, for the 40th anniversary of Yuriâ€™s epic flight, the team of Trish Garner, George Whitesides and Loretta Hidalgo established April 12th as Yuriâ€™s Night and began to sponsor a night of parties celebrating human space flight. The idea was simple: establish a Web site where anyone could register their party, letting the rest of the world know that they were celebrating. The Web site also provides some basic information on how to throw a party and where to find parties that are open to the public. Parties can be private or public, sedate or wild, scientific or hedonistic. Itâ€™s up to you.
Over the decade since it was first established, Yuriâ€™s Night has grown from a few dozen parties a year to over two hundred parties all around the world. Parties range in size from a few dozen people to a few thousand and have been staged on every continent (including Antarctica) and the International Space Station and in Second Life. The largest parties are generally in San Francisco and Washington, DC, but there are always some great events in almost every major city on the planet. Some parties are still on the 12th, but some opt to celebrate on the closest Saturday (this year, the 9th).
The important thing is to celebrate, and now is the time to start planning. Hereâ€™s how you can get involved:
- Go to a party. Events are held around the world, and therefore probably one not too far away. You can find parties either by using the map or by consulting the handy-dandy list. And if you canâ€™t find a party near youâ€¦
- Start a party. Whether itâ€™s a small party with 5 close friends or a major event with 500, register your party on the Yuriâ€™s Night website and let the rest of the world know. Some people just have a dinner at a local restaurant or pub, while others will get a club to sponsor an event. For ideas on starting your own party, check out the siteâ€™s wiki.
- Spread the word: Follow Yuriâ€™s Night on Twitter or Facebook. WearT-shirts or buy other paraphernalia.