Yuri Gagarin, First Man in Space, Celebrated on ‘Yuri’s Night’

Yuri Gagarin was the first human to journey into outer space when his Vostok 1 spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on April 12, 1961. His mission lasted just 108 minutes.

Every year since, space enthusiasts have celebrated the landmark on what has become known as ‘Yuri’s Night,’ with parties in honor of the Soviet cosmonaut’s pioneering flight staged around the world.

This year, celebrations weren’t just taking place down on Earth. Fittingly enough, six astronauts on the International Space Station celebrated Gagarin’s spaceflight milestone from orbit. Speaking to reporters via a video link on Wednesday, space station commander Dan Burbank of NASA said:

“The day that Yuri launched was really, really important. It basically set the foundation for a very wonderful and robust space program that we now enjoy cooperatively and internationally. We’re going to have a bit of a reduced schedule, enjoy a couple of meals together, which is something that often, with the busy tempo, we don’t get a chance to do. Most of us end up eating individually on the side as we go.”

While revelers celebrated on this planet, the International Space Station crew clinked glasses (or whatever they have up there) 240 miles (386 kilometers) above Earth.

Incidentally, Gagarin’s orbit of Earth isn’t the only noticeable space anniversary on April 12: on April 12, 1981, the space shuttle Columbia lifted off on the inaugural flight of NASA’s shuttle program.

That flight saw astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen launched into space aboard Columbia on the STS-1 mission. While it might not have the same significance as Gagarin’s landmark flight, it was NASA’s first manned mission since the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.