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On Yuri's Night, party like it's 1961

By Miriam Kramer

This week, space geeks around the world will celebrate the historic flight that made Yuri Gagarin the first person to leave the confines of Earth 52 years ago.

"Yuri's Night" (celebrated annually the week of April 12) commemorates Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's first flight with parties and special events honoring more than five decades of human spaceflight. This year, festivities will take place on Friday, with some lasting into the weekend and next week.

Gagarin launched into space on April 12, 1961 aboard his Vostok space capsule, ushering in the age of human spaceflight. Exactly 20 years after Gagarin's historic flight, NASA launched the first space shuttle mission on April 12, 1981 to kick of reusable spacecraft program that would last three decades. Yuri's Night celebrations are aimed at marking both space anniversaries, as well as toasting the spirit of space exploration. [Yuri Gagarin: First Man in Space (Photos)]

"Yuri's Night is the world space party," the project's spokesman Brice Russ told "(It's a) global celebration of space."

So far, 255 parties in 42 countries have been registered through Yuri's Night's official website, Russ said. Groups of space fans on six continents are planning celebrations, and Russ is in negotiations with a possible party host in Antarctica to get the last continent added to the list. 

"We have 75 events officially registered on our website for the United States, with more coming in each day," Russ wrote in an email. "If people are interested in participating in Yuri's Night but don't have an event nearby (and don't want to start one up themselves), they can join Yuri's Night online via webcasts or virtual events."

Launched in 2001, Yuri's Night began with 64 events around the world. Ten years later — on the 50-year anniversary of human spaceflight in 2011 — people in 74 different countries hosted 550 events making it the largest Yuri's Night in the event's history. This year is shaping up to be the second-largest, Russ added.

"Everyone is welcome to come to celebrate Yuri's night with us," Russ added. "There is something at Yuri's night for everyone."

It is not too late to register and host your own Yuri's Night party. Simply sign up online through YurisNight.netto make your party searchable in the "party list." There is no party too big or too small to be a part of the celebration, Russ said.

If you'd like to find a party near you, visit the "Find a Party" page and use the Google Map to search for a convenient location.

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