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MIT students help celebrate first human space flight

Forty years ago tomorrow -- on April 12, 1961 -- Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin blasted off in Vostok 1 on a mission that would change the world. This first human flight into space opened the world to a new and challenging frontier.

Exactly 20 years later to the day, John Young and Robert Crippen flew the first space shuttle into orbit in 1981, establishing a new era of reusable space transportation.

To commemorate these milestones, "Yuri's Space Night" -- an international, grassroots, 24-hour celebration connecting space, science and music -- will be observed in more than 48 cities and 22 countries.

At MIT, the New England Mars Society will hold two events as part of Yuri's Night -- an informational afternoon where seven guest speakers will share their knowledge and experience about human space exploration, followed by a party in the evening.

The afternoon session will be held from 2-6pm in the Mezzanine Lounge on the third floor of the Student Center. Speakers will include Jonathan McDowell, astrophysicist from Harvard University and the Chandra Observatory; Matthew Spitkosvky, a space specialist at the Museum of Science who worked on the early Russian space program; Tamara Golovietskaya, a member of the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC; and Professor Larry Young of aeronautics and astronautics, director of the MIT Man-Vehicle Laboratory.

The party, which will be held in the Porter Room of Burton-Conner, will feature live music from the New York-based band Zia, a DJ performance, videos, media projections and web coverage.

For more information about the project, contact Aurelie Bressollette, a graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics at x3-5608.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 11, 2001.

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