Fifty-one years ago on April 12, 1961, the Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made history as the first human to enter outer space. Exactly 20 years later, the United States innovated the space age by launching the Space Shuttle (April 12, 1981).
Yuri’s Night, which commemorates these events, aims to celebrate humanity’s past present and future in space launches Yuri’s Night celebrations this week around the world. The Bay Area has already started festivities with the inaugural San Francisco SpaceUp unconference. There are also options for celebrating Yuri’s Night in the East Bay, San Francisco and San Jose on April 12, 2012 and throughout next week.
SpaceUp is an unconference all about space exploration. Participants decide event topics, schedule, and structure. I put on my Yuri’s Night hat and attended the first San Francisco installment of SpaceUp over the weekend of March 31 to April 1 and had a great time.
The unconference approach let a great diversity of people engage and network in a way that led to long conversations after the conference as well as intersection points you never would make at a normal conference. Highlights for me were reconnecting to contacts from NightLife, hearing the sheer enthusiasm of the Kepler Center director as he conveyed results of the mission, seeing the results of a moon-bounce, learning how crowdfunding can let the average person tour around space with the website launch of Idreamofspace.com, and understanding how synthetic biology will play its own part in longer missions and settlement.
Kid friendly and family activities will be taking place the day of April 12 from 12pm to 4pm at Chabot Space and Science Center. You can find out if you have the right stuff to be an astronaut in their Astronaut Lab and Beyond Blast Off exhibit. Activities include building a rocket and blasting it into space or trying to keep your heart rate down while being subjected to extreme pressure. Hand-eye-brain coordination can also be tested using black hole goggles.
The Yuri’s Night activities are part of Chabot’s Break into Spring programming and more activities for the week can be found on their website. If you want to stare into the further reaches of space, the observatories are open for extended hours for both daytime and evening viewing throughout the week and weekend.
My museum alma mater, the California Academy of Sciences, will once again feature Yuri’s Night programming for the 21+ crowd at the Space Oddities NightLife on April 12 from 6pm to 10pm. Highlights of the night include: music by the San Francisco favorite DJ collective Space Cowboys, meeting researchers from UC Berkeley Space Science Laboratory, hands on activities at the Surfin’ the Solar Wind Booth, a NASA Kepler Mission presentation by Dr. Steve B. Howell at 7:30pm in the Forum Theater, and special showings of Dawn of the Space Age in the Planetarium. I’m sure cameras will be flashing as Yuri’s Night at Cal Academy has a history of inspiring great intergalactic costumes. Loretta Hildago Whitesides who co-created Yuri’s Night came the first year as a very convincing Princess Leia!
Until April 15, The Tech Museum is featuring a temporary exhibit– NASA’s Destination Station. It tells the story of the International Space Station (ISS) within a multimedia exhibit. You can learn about the 24/7/365 space-based research and how that research affects everyday life on Earth. The exhibit has hands-on activities, imagery and audio-visual technology connecting visitors to the destination of space.
If there are other events that should be highlighted, leave them in the comment section below or register them on the Yuri’s Night website.