LAS CRUCES – Fifty-eight years ago, on April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut, became the first human to orbit Earth, a trip that was completed in 108 minutes.
In recognition of Gagarin’s historical achievement and humanity’s journey in space exploration, Yuri’s Night has become an annual celebration, with parties and events held around the world. Yuri’s Night also marks the launch of the first space shuttle on April 12, 1981.
This year’s Las Cruces Space Festival will celebrate Yuri’s Night with a lineup of several events and activities on Friday, April 12.
“The reason we want to celebrate (Yuri’s Night) here in Las Cruces is that we have such a rich history of space flight in this region, with White Sands Missile Range and White Sands Test Facility, and the future of commercial space flight at Spaceport America,” Las Cruces Space Festival Coordinator Alice Carruth said.
Yuri’s Night also raises awareness about who Gagarin was and what he accomplished, Carruth said.
“I don’t think people who don’t have a relationship with space understand who Yuri is and his initial space flight and what that meant,” Carruth said. “He was the first person to get up in space and we followed him shortly thereafter in America. I think that’s really important to anyone interested in the future of space flight, as well as those interested in the past.”
One of the main events of the evening will be the Space Walk, organized by the Downtown Las Cruces Partnership, on N. Main Street. Participants of all ages will have the opportunity to dress in their favorite space-related costumes with the best dressed awarded a prize.
“The spacewalk is a fun healthy activity for the whole family,” said DLCP Executive Director Jennifer Garcia Kozlowski. “It gives the adults a reason to play and gives the kids a dream to become whatever they want to. Yoda or an astronaut.”
Registration for the Space Walk will be at 5:30 p.m. in front of the Color Me Cruces mural by Insta-Copy Imaging, 318 N. Main St. The walk starts at 6 p.m. from the point of registration to the Plaza de Las Cruces and across the stage for voting.
Following the walk, live music will be provided by Triple Jack at 7 p.m. on the Plaza de Las Cruces. There will also be several food trucks available and space cocktails provided by Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery.
Also taking place at 7 p.m. are several performances and presentations at the Rio Grande Theatre, 211 N. Main St., beginning with an excerpt from the play “Yuri,” presented by New Mexico State University assistant professor Larissa Lury.
The play is a part fact, mostly imagined, tale of Gagarin’s trip into space. The audience will get a front-row seat to his journey as it “collides with the life of his daughter long after his death, with his own memories and experiences and with the life of a contemporary teenager working out an algorithm to help him to interact with others,” according to the Las Cruces Space Festival website.
For more information about events taking place on Yuri’s Night, refer to the Space Festival schedule or visit lcspacefestival.com.
Alexia Severson may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.