Supporters of space exploration were busy celebrating this weekend, with annual Yuri’s Night events across the planet on Saturday, marking Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s first human space flight on 12th April 12th, 1961 and the first launch of the US Space Shuttle on 12th April 1981.
Yuri’s Night is regarded like a St Patrick’ or St George’s Day for space. It’s one day when all the world can come together and celebrate the power and beauty of space and what it means.
Almost 200 parties took place across the globe, with several in the UK, including one in Manchester to help raise money to save the world-reknowned Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope, under threat of closure thanks to penny-pinching government idiocy, a plan widely condemned by scientists (including Sir Bernard Lovell and The Sky at Night’s Sir Patrick Moore), celebrities (Queen’s Brian May, for one) and many others. (More on the campaign ot save Jodrell Bank here).
The largest Yuri’s Night celebration on the planet drew an estimated 7,000 people to the tarmac at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, as young-minded people celebrated space exploration with music, dance, technology and art.
The celebration – the largest of 178 held around the world – was co-hosted with the Space Generation Advisory Council.
“When humans go into space, we take with us not just our science and technology but our hopes, our dreams, our art and our personal interactions,” said Ames Director S. Pete Worden. “At Yuri’s Night 2008, we celebrated all of these, and the enthusiasm of our guests was gratifying and reinvigorating.”
More than 20 speakers including Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and SimCity game creator Will Wright addressed participants and demonstrated cutting edge technologies. Musical acts including Telstar, a new trio led by former Grateful Dead basist Phil Lesh and DJ phenomenon Amon Tobin of Montreal performed on four stages. A trio of American and Soviet-era aircraft demonstrated aerobatics over Moffett Field, and San Francisco’s interdisciplinary dance company Capacitor displayed human acrobatics.
Pictured above: One of many wild costumes at Yuri’s Night. Photo courtesy of NASA Ames Research Center / Paul Langston