The Speculist: It's Yuri's Night!


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It's Yuri's Night!

Today marks the 47th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic first manned flight into space, as well as the 27th anniversary of the first space shuttle launch. The folks at believe that this is cause for celebration:

Yuri's Night is like the St Patricks Day or Cinco de Mayo for space. It is one day when all the world can come together and celebrate the power and beauty of space and what it means for each of us.

We couldn't agree more. Tonight let's party like it's 1961:

Of course, back in 1961, Americans didn't think of Gagarin's flight as something to celebrate. Rather, it was cause for alarm. The dreaded Russians had put the first artificial satellite in orbit with Sputnik, and then they put the first man in space with Gagarin. It was these threats -- and, yes, they were absolutely perceived as threats -- that led to the Apollo program and the first man on the moon.

It's kind of neat that today we can look back on Gagarin's accomplishment not as a victory for the Russians or communism, but rather as a major step forward for humanity. Ditto for Armstrong's accomplishment a few years later. (And in fact, Neil said words to that effect upon setting foot on the moon.) Gagarin and those who came before and after him belong not to one nation or philosophy or system of government, but to all of us.

So let's party!


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