Image Credit & Copyright: STS-001 image, NASA; Yuri Gagarin Sergei Korolev, Roscosmos and Yuri’s Night poster via Yuri’s Night.
April 12, as most of us space nuts know, is one of the most significant dates in spaceflight history for two monumental reasons. 2 major firsts took place on this day: April 12, 1981: STS-001 Columbia lifts off from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) LC-39A with Bob Crippen & John Young to begin the Space Shuttle era! The entire flight lasted 2 days, 6 hours and was the first manned American spaceflight since Apollo-Soyuz on July 15, 1975 which lifted off from LC-39B and it was also the first launch from LC-39A since the final Saturn V launch; the unmanned Skylab 1 on May 14, 1973.
Bob Crippen would go on to fly the Space Shuttle 3 more times; STS-007 Challenger, STS-041-C Challenger and STS-041-G Challenger. John Young however would only fly into space once more but it’s his history that will open your eyes. By the time STS-001 came to be, he was already a legend in spaceflight (Gemini 3, Gemini 10, Apollo 10, Apollo 16, STS-001 Columbia and STS-009 Columbia). He only needed a Project Mercury flight to complete the sweep of all NASA’s manned spaceflight vehicles.
On he was on the 1st manned Gemini launch (Gemini 3) and was the mastermind behind the infamous “Coned Beef Sandwich” incident. During Apollo 10 he and the rest of the crew (Gene Cernan & Thomas Stafford) became the fastest humans alive at 24,791 mph (39,897 kph) riding CSM Charlie Brown and LM Snoopy. This is as close to humans have come to Earth’s escape velocity (even though they were inbound) and it’s a record that stands today.
April 12, 1961: 20 years to the day prior to the launch of STS-001 was the launch of the 1st human to leave the Earth and the 1st to orbit Earth, Yuri Gagarin, call sign “Cedar.” The launch, Vostok 1, was known as “Gagarin Flight” and it left from Site 1 (1/5) or “Gagarin Start” at the Biakonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. The site is still active today having just launched TMA-16M to the ISS to start their 1 year mission. The entire Vostok 1 flight lasted just 1 hour, 48 minutes and to this day was the shortest orbit in history but it kicked off one of the most ambitions human achievements in our history.
To commemorate both of these incredible achievements, the day has come to be known as “Yuri’s Night” and space nuts like us dress up and attend events worldwide! Go check out the event’s page to find a location near you!
Yuri’s Night: https://yurisnight.net/
Yuri’s Night Twitter: https://twitter.com/yurisnight