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Yuri’s Night Rocks the Planet: A 45th Anniversary Celebration

Eighty-sixcities around the globe are scheduled to celebrate the 45th anniversary ofRussian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's historic spaceflight today. The event,entitled Yuri's Night, is a grassroots world party for space that has been heldannually since 2001.

In additionto Gagarin's flight, the event also commemorates the first launch of the spaceshuttle, which took place 20 years to the day after Yuri orbited the planet. That historic space shuttle launch, of the orbiter Columbia on April 12, 1981,was flown by John Young and Robert Crippen Jr. Young and Crippen are expectedat the Johnson Space Center this morning for an event with Senator Hutchison of Texas.

Yuri'sNight was co-founded by Loretta Hidalgo, currently a contractor at NASAheadquarters, and George Whitesides, Executive Director of the National SpaceSociety. The couple, who are now slated to ride as the first honeymoon coupleon Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, began the event with fellow Space Generation member TrishGarner as a way to bring people together and expand the global space community.

"The mostpowerful thing about Yuri's Night is that it brings the world together throughthe universal wonder of space," said Whitesides. "At a moment when the worldis often being pulled apart, space is truly something that can reach acrossnational boundaries."

This year,over 85 events have been scheduled across 32 countries and all sevencontinents. With volunteers from all over the world, the grassroots organizershave run the operation from the site http://www.yurisnight.net. Readers cancheck the site to find events in their own area, watch webcasts of otherevents, or web chat with other celebrants around the planet.

"We're veryexcited about the diversity and the quality of the events this year," said Hidalgo, "from the Museum of Flying in Seattle to a South African braai barbecue in Cape Town to a massive event with Russian and Swedish DJs in Stockholm."

Manyadvocates for space take positions without getting paid. Those who served onthe Yuri's Night executive committee or who are producing local events are noexception. V. Anbarasan, the Executive Secretary of Yuri's Night 2006,volunteered his time from Pondicherry, India, and is also producing an eventfor around 40 people.

Tim Baileyof Titusville, Florida, Director of Community Relations for Yuri's Night 2006,explained why he volunteered.

"Whensomething is really important you make time for it. Space is that important. But I also don't do it alone--we have a great team (including my wife Jen) hereon the Space Coast that make it all possible."

Hidalgo concluded, "It is a pleasure to bea part of a dedicated international team. The young leaders who are makeYuri's Night happen around the planet are the same people who will also betaking us to Mars."

NOTE: The views of this article are the author's and do not reflect the policies of the National Space Society.

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