Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin’s flight into space in April 1961 turned a hitherto unknown Soviet Air Force officer into a hero around the world. Upon his death in March 1968 he became an icon, his image forever frozen. Since then, the date of his flight has been celebrated in the Soviet Union and its successors as Cosmonautics Day. April 12, 2001 marked the 40th anniversary, and April 12, 2011 the 50th.
Between 2001 and 2011, under the banner of Yuri’s Night, an annual global celebration of the anniversary has been organized. Taking the form of a worldwide grassroots effort mediated via the internet, Yuri’s Night and associated activities have celebrated humankind’s exploration of space, and provided a mechanism for reaching out to the general public, particularly young people, and raising awareness of space exploration. A recent example of this has been the hit 2011 experiential documentary film First Orbit, which celebrates Gagarin’s flight in a unique and powerful way. Created with the specific intent to be premiered on the 50th anniversary, First Orbit became a significant global phenomenon that has brought additional attention to both Yuri’s Night and to the broader commitment, felt by people around the globe, that humanity’s movement into space will continue and will engage more people and more nations in a global cooperative effort.
Read more here: International Social Cooperation in Space Awareness Riley Welch
This paper was first published as part of International Cooperation for the Development of Space, published by the Aerospace Technology Working Group (ATWG) and included on this site through the courtesy of ATWG, ISU and the individual authors.
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