A New Holiday to Bring Our Little Planet Closer Together

More

I wasn't born when Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin launched from the steppes of Kazakhstan and spent 108 minutes orbiting our beautiful home planet-- my view of space and the Russians was shaped more by the lens of '80s pop culture.

SpaceflightBug.jpg

So maybe I let Star Wars, 2010: The Year We Make Contact and Sting's "If the Russians Love Their Children Too" have too big an influence on me. But something in that, "why can't we all just get along?" rhetoric from the mid-'80s really stuck with me.

When I discovered in the mid '90s that the 1st U.S. Shuttle flight took off exactly 20 years to the day after Yuri's April 12, 1961, flight I figured we needed to start a new holiday to get people thinking about how space can bring our little planet closer together. Former rival super powers were now International Space Station partners -- it only seemed right.

With the help of my now-husband George and our friends and colleagues around the world, Yuri's Night was born in the very-spacey year of 2001.

The idea took hold and our first year we had events in 69 cities around the planet, including Antarctica. Ten years later the event has grown to more than 500 events in over 70 countries, including the six astronauts and cosmonauts currently on the International Space Station.

Our idea was not to celebrate a man, but to celebrate a great achievement of humankind -- our first step away from the home planet. We imagined that thousands of years in the future when human beings are living throughout the galaxy, people would look back and remember that first tentative step away from home.

In that sense Yuri's Night is not just a celebration of the past and all of the brave space explorers who have gone before us. It is also a celebration of the future. It is a call to action to all of those who care about human spaceflight, that it is up to us to make sure that in 2061 our grandkids have even more to party about -- like humans on Mars, probes to Alpha Centauri, the investigation of thousands of Earth-like planets, and millions of people traveling peacefully in the heavens.

Now isn't that something worth breaking out your glow sticks and moon boots for?

Jump to comments
Presented by

Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides

With her husband George, the CEO and president of Virgin Galactic, Loretta Whitesides is the co-creator of Yuri's Night, the annual worldwide space party celebrated every April 12.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In