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Yuri’s Night 2011 stats: 557 events in 75 countries on 6 continents on 2 worlds (Earth and the Space Station!)

50 years ago the launch of a bell-shaped capsule called “Vostok 1” on April 12th, 1961 by 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 12th, 1981). Twenty years later Yuri’s Night was created to connect and inspire the globe about human spaceflight –– honoring the past while looking forward to the next generation of spaceflight (think Space X, the Google Lunar X Prize and Virgin Galactic!) This year commemorates the 10th anniversary of Yuri’s Night, the 30th Anniversary of the US space shuttle and the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight!

This also marks the 3rd anniversary of California Academy of Sciences involvement with Yuri’s Night. The NightLife team first began working with NASA and the Yuri’s Night collective back in 2009. NASA decided to cancel their Saturday night party at NASA Ames and asked us to host it at NightLife instead. We had 3922 guests come out to celebrate spaceflight. One of the guests was even Buzz Aldrin! In 2010, we expanded our reach. We had another very successful Yuri’s NightLife at the Academy and then participated at NASA Ames on Yuri’s Night School day on Friday and on their Festival Day on Saturday.

This year, NightLife celebrated Yuri by focusing on space as the great frontier on Thursday, April 7th. The Planetarium showed Dawn of the Space Age, the Geodome was set up in the Piazza to show star talks and Hofeld Hall was set up to give tours of Alien Worlds. Fred Bourgeouis, III, the CEO of Team Frednet came into speak about how his team of over 700 volunteers is prototyping a rocket to fly to the moon to win the Google Lunar X Prize and Mary Roach wowed and amused guests about fodder in her new book Packing for Mars.

Around dawn on Friday April 8th, the Portable Planetarium along with some very sleep colleagues set out to NASA Ames in Mountain View to give star talks about the night sky. I was told by a friend at NASA, that there were 6432 kids in attendance that day. The planetarium was scheduled for 15 minutes talks each half hour but it was so popular the presenters found a way to give back-to-back shows every fifteen minutes from 9am to 3pm. The rest of us were on sticker duty, keeping the kids amused while they waited, giving information and answering the survey question – Which is visible now in the night sky? The answer being Saturn, we even had the appropriate sticker to give out. All in all, it was a great third year for the Academy’s Yuri’s Night festivities and two among 557 events that celebrated human spaceflight this year.

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Celebrating 50 Years with Yuri 14 April,2011Cat



Cathleen (Cat) is the former Special Projects Manager at California Academy of Sciences and worked in the public programs division.
Before working at the Academy, Cat got her start as an intern at Lindsay Wildlife Museum for four years and worked with animals ranging from snakes and hawks to foxes and bobcats. She has a deep curiosity about the natural world and native California wildlife.

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