“Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship I marvelled at the beauty of our planet.
People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty — not destroy it!”
— Yuri Gagarin, 1st human in space.
It’s Yuri’s Night! Today, April 12th marks the 54th anniversary of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s epic journey into space; the first time a human ever ventured across the threshold of Earth’s atmosphere into the Cosmos.
One of my fav bloggers/science evangelists/astronomers is Phil Plait AKA, the “Bad Astronomer” said that:
And why should it be? Asking that question, we appreciate an irony of space. Space is the most and least accessible place all at once. Astronomy was the first observational science. Before technology, we were trying to determine how the planets moved, what the Sun was, and whether gods waged wars in the heavens. Constellations like the Big Dipper have names through the histories of dozens of cultures, Space is above us all. We all see it every day (unless you live in Vancouver of course.) However, Space is also totally off limits for the vast majority of it. Just over 500 people have ever been into space.
So why should the journey of a few – or one, Yuri Gagarin – become a global holiday? First, there is a practical application of going to space. Not just an escape fantasy (although yes I did always want to be a starship captain) space exploration will yield new colonization opportunities, help us learn more about planetary climates, create new medical technologies, green energies, help us better understand the nature of existence (like…actually), and provide access to much cleaner resources. Imagine if we could mine asteroids instead of damaging the planet to acquire the resources we need.
Beyond technology, by recognizing Yuri’s journey, we ALL help to diminish that irony of space…we make space a bit closer to all of us. We also fundamentally recognize a need I believe we as humans all innately carry; a need to explore. Our journey to space is one of the ultimate expressions of that need. As our technology grows, and if the will continues to exist – fuelled by celebrations like Yuri’s Night – space will become more and more accessible. Already now, space tourism company Virgin Galactic is saying that once operational, the will double the number of people who have gone to space since Yuri Gagarin did in 1961…but in ONE year. Think about that for a second. Astronauts, like Ron Garan, speak often about being fundamentally changed by their journeys to space. They think of themselves more connected globally as human beings. What if more and more people get that opportunity. How would it fundamentally change the world.
As creatures who explore and question, space is the obvious destiny of our species, if we can get our act together to take care of this planet, as Gagarin urged, and making the decisions we need to make that journey happen. Today, you can be a part of bringing that destiny closer by finding a Yuri’s Night party near you. Check out www.YurisNight.net to find an events all over the whole PLANET. You can also post a Yuri’s Night event you’re hosting or financially contribute to the Yuri’s Night project – of which one of our Chasing Atlantis interviewees, Ryan Kobrick, serves as Chairman of the Board helping to coordinate all this space awesomeness around the world.
We will be celebrating too! I spent Yuri’s Night/Early morning calibrating a new .8M telescope at Simon Fraser University Burnaby that we will be bringing online shortly. This is not a research scope, it is designed as an Outreach scope created by the Trottier Foundation for SFU. If you’re in British Columbia, be sure to keep an eye out for viewing opportunities at this state of the art observatory. As soon as photos are available, I will post them. Chasing Atlantis also has attended a few Yuri’s Night events in Seattle and Toronto and last year we hosted a screening of IMAX:Hubble at Simone Fraser University in Vancouver. We also have a special Yuri’s Night Trailer which features both Ryan Kobrick and Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield.Check it out!
Wherever you are on the planet, Have an amazing Yuri’s Night! The World Space Party!