On April 12 1961, 27 year old Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into outer space and perform the first manned orbital flight, circling the Earth for 1 hour and 48 minutes in his spacecraft Vostok 3KA-2 (Vostok 1) . To mark the occasion Cosmonautics Day was established in Russia (День Космона́втики, Den Kosmonavtiki) and some other former USSR countries, and Yuri’s Night Is also held internationally every April 12 to commemorate this milestones in space exploration. The launch of STS-1, the first Space Shuttle mission, is also honored, as it was launched exactly 20 years afterwards on April 12, 1981.
Gagarin’s flight was a triumph for the Soviet space program, and ushered in a new era in space exploration. Gagarin became a national hero of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc and a famous figure around the world. Major newspapers around the globe published his biography and details of his flight. Moscow and other cities in the USSR held mass parades, the scale of which was second only to WWII Victory Parades. Gagarin was escorted in a long motorcade of high-ranking officials through the streets of Moscow to the Kremlin where, in a lavish ceremony, he was awarded the highest Soviet honour, the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev
The commemoration ceremony on Cosmonautics Day usually starts in the city of Korolyov, near Gagarin’s statue. Participants then proceed under police escort to Red Square for a visit to Gagarin’s grave in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis, and continue to Cosmonauts Alley, near the Monument to the Conquerors of Space. Finally, the festivities are concluded with a visit to the Novodevichy Cemetery. In 1968, the 61st conference of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale resolved to celebrate this day as the World Aviation and Astronautics Day. On April 12, 1981, exactly 20 years after Vostok 1, a Space Shuttle (STS-1, Columbia) was launched for the first orbital flight. On April 7, 2011 United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring April 12 as the International Day of Human Space Flight.
Yuri’s Night, also known as the “World’s Space party”, is held internationally every April 12 in many locations, including museums, schools and bars, to commemorate this milestones in space exploration, increase public interest in space exploration, inspire a new generation of explorers and create a global community of young people committed to shaping the future of space exploration while developing responsible leaders and innovators with a global perspective. In the past Yuri’s Night events have also been attended by space-related figures including author Ray Bradbury, space tourist Dennis Tito, X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis, *NSYNC’s Lance Bass and Nichelle Nichols (Uhura from the original Star Trek series) and have been held at the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Mountain View, CAlifornia.and The launch of STS-1, the first Space Shuttle mission, is also honored, as it was launched 20 years to the day of Vostok 1 on April 12, 1981. In 2013, Yuri’s Night was celebrated at over 350 events in 57 countries and In 2011 the crew aboard the International Space Station also recorded a special Yuri’s Night celebratory greeting.