Happy Birthday, Human Spaceflight! Yuri's Night Celebrates Yuri Gagarin's Epic Trip
On April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (left, on the way to the launch pad) made the first human spaceflight, a 108-minute orbital journey in his Vostok 1 spacecraft. Newspapers like The Huntsville Times (right) trumpeted Gagarin's accomplishment.
Credit: NASA

It was 53 years ago today on April 12, 1961 when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin launched into space aboard his Soviet Vostok 1 and ushered in an era of space travel that continues to this today. Twenty years aftet Gagarin's flight, NASA's first space shuttle flight soared on its maiden flight with John Young and Robert Crippen aboard the Columbia, and the age of winged spaceflight was born.

Each year, we at Space.com pause to reflect on both April 12 space anniversaries, and space fans around the world do the same with Yuri's Night, a global celebration of human spaceflight. This year, more than 40,000 people are expected to participate in the worldwide space party during 180 events planned in more than 47 countries. [Yuri Gagarin, First Man in Space (Photos)]

"The efforts put forward by our fans and by many events to host bigger and better parties each year is great!” Yuri's Night executive director Ryan Kobrick said in a statement. "We're nearly at 200 events, and we expect to register many more by Saturday. This is going to be another fantastic year for Yuri's Night." To find a Yuri's Night event near you, visit: http://find.yurisnight.net.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+