Georgia Tech’s Space Research Initiative Hosts Yuri’s Day Symposium

April 29, 2024

April 12 is a significant date in the history of exploration, as it marks the first space flight of a human, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961. This year on April 12, the Georgia Tech Space Research Initiative (Space RI) hosted an event highlighting the Institute’s interdisciplinary space research. The Yuri’s Day Symposium was Space RI’s first public event.

A multidisciplinary initiative, the Space RI brings together faculty, researchers, and students from across campus who share a passion for space exploration. Their combined research explores a broad array of space-related topics, all considered from a human perspective.

“Launching Georgia Tech’s Space Research Initiative reinforces our commitment to advancing our understanding of space and our universe,” said Executive Vice President for Research Chaouki Abdallah. “It is also a testament to Georgia Tech's unwavering dedication to pushing the limits of what is possible and to fostering innovations that benefit humankind.”

The symposium was organized by Glenn Lightsey, interim executive director of the Space RI, and the Space RI steering committee, which consists of representatives from the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) and the Colleges of Engineering, Computing, and Sciences, the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, and the Scheller College of Business. The day began with remarks from Research leadership and an overview of the Space RI and its mission. “This is an exciting time for space exploration at Georgia Tech and across the world,” Lightsey said. “Space research is a critical part of solving our world’s most challenging problems and improving life for everyone on Earth.”

Space research and exploration yield many societal benefits that improve life on Earth and even foster economic growth. These advances include rapidly evolving technologies, improvements in medicine, and the development of enhanced materials — such as self-healing materials and those designed for extreme environments. Additionally, space research provides essential tools, data, and insights for climate scientists.

Sessions and panels throughout the day covered space science, space media, NASA’s Moon to Mars program, GTRI’s space research program, commercial space initiatives, and space in popular culture. A.C. Charania, NASA’s chief technologist and a Georgia Tech alumnus, delivered the keynote address. He shared insights into his work at NASA and Moon to Mars.

Following the symposium, the Space RI hosted a “star party” at the Georgia Tech Observatory. People of all ages gathered at the event, where they could use the observatory’s telescope to observe the moon, Jupiter, and the Orion Nebula, an immense cloud of dust and gas from which new stars are born.

“It was a clear night, and we were able to view the lunar terminator — the boundary where the sun is setting on the moon — which accentuates craters and mountains,” said Lightsey. “It was exciting to officially launch our initiative on a day when the world celebrated space exploration and the star party was a fantastic way to end our event.”

In July 2025, the Space RI will transition into one of Georgia Tech’s Interdisciplinary Research Institutes. Learn more about the initiative at

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