International Day Of Human Space Flight
April 12, 2012

International Day Of Human Space Flight

Lee Rannals for

Today marks a day that is epic in every sense of the word as April 12th is known as International Day of Human Space Flight.

Fifty-one years ago from today, Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet citizen, made the historic feat of becoming the first man in space -- a move that sparked the beginning of the space race, and brought both innovation and determination to engineers and scientists around the world.

The UN General Assembly declared April 12 to be International Day of Human Space Flight in 2011, just five days before the celebration.

The assembly said the day will be “to celebrate each year at the international level the beginning of the space era for mankind, reaffirming the important contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of States and peoples, as well as ensuring the realization of their aspiration to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes.”

This year's observance has an alliance of over 800 institutions of higher education and research, and is being organized by United Nations Academic Impact.

The United Nations Headquarters in New York is hosting the annual International Day of Human Space Flight today between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.  During this event, astronauts, space scientists and writers will all be speaking to the gathering.

This year, the International Day of Human Space Flight comes at an awkward time -- a time when the U.S. does not currently have its own way of transportation since retiring the space shuttle fleet last year.

As 50-years of space travel were celebrated last year, it was followed by the retiring of a working program that had been NASA's tool for sending astronauts outside of Earth's atmosphere for three decades.

Russia is still using its faithful Soyuz spacecraft to send men to the International Space Station, including U.S. astronauts for the small fee of about $62 million.

However, celebrating the International Day of Human Space Flight without the 30-year-old space shuttle program does not have to be bleak, because a new era of space travel is approaching.

Getting civilians into space is now becoming a new determination for exploration, paving the way for new kinds of technologies for space travel.

Space tourism is the future of human space flight, and companies like Virgin Galactic are aiming to make it possible for anyone to experience a new vantage point of Earth for $200,000.

Space Adventures, a company founded in 1998, has already been giving civilians the opportunity to get their space travel on.

Dennis Tito became the world's first private space explorer in April 2001 after launching aboard Soyuz TM-32.

Since Tito embarked on an adventure into the abyss, Space Adventures has sent out six other civilians to experience life outside of the Earth's atmosphere, with prices costing $20 million and up.

Space Adventures is not setting its sights just on low-orbit missions, the company is also planning to send future space travelers to our celestial neighbor, the moon.

During these adventures, civilians will be between 60 to 600 miles above the moon's surface, spending a total of 8 to 9 days in space.  Space Adventures has already sold one seat on the lunar voyage for $150 million, and are in negotiations with a second seat.

So as human space exploration is in its transitional phase, moving from exploration to commercialization, the International Day of Human Space Flight is being proudly celebrated across America.

Several events are being held in Boston, as well as other major aerospace markets across the U.S.  However, those who cannot find an event in their city can join or for a simulcast online party.