Pretty soon, we’re going to be announcing the official conclusion of YN2010 as we begin to gear up for Yuri’s Night 2011, which promises to be our biggest and most diverse celebration of space yet. Before we move on, though, let’s take a quick look back at the very first Yuri’s Night, which was a pretty big affair itself.
As you may know, Yuri’s Night was first officially announced at the Graz Conference for the United Nations’ Space Generation Advisory Council in September of 2000. There was no way that Loretta, George, and co-founder Trish Garner were going to miss out on celebrating the first YN on the 40th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first flight (4/12/2001), giving them barely seven months to build a global partying organization from the ground up. But with a lot of hard work, and the help of Caltech’s Laboratory for Spacecraft and Mission Design, Yuri’s Night 2001 finally came together, with 69 events planned around the world.
Due to the International Date Line, Sydney was the first city to celebrate on Yuri’s Night 2001, as a great crowd came together on Easter weekend to celebrate at the Powerhouse Museum. (Due to scheduling issues, Stellenbosch, South Africa was actually the first city to ever celebrate Yuri’s Night, having held their party on April 5.) From there, the parties just kept coming. In Bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi, they held a day-long conference on how to use space and technology to help the environment. In Istanbul, dozens of space fans danced and partied until 4 in the morning in an event that was covered by the national Turkish news. The Paris, France event brought together scientists, artists and actors in the Cafe de Flore, a renowned meeting place for great thinkers and writers such as Hemingway, Sartre, and Picasso. And in the United Kingdom, over half a dozen parties tried out events ranging from rocketry demonstrations to movie premiers to all sorts of revelry and celebration.
Of course, the flagship event was Yuri’s Night Los Angeles, which went down at the Palace (now Avalon) in downtown Hollywood. With the Lunar Rover parked out front, over 1500 partygoers showed up over the course of the evening, not including the silver-booted go-go dancers in the middle of the dance floor and the awesome technical crew who set up the continuous space-based footage displayed on the walls. Oksana Baiul, 1994 Olympic figure skating champion, was in attendance, as was Richard Hatch from the original Battlestar Galactica and other VIPs. And in one of the best embodiments of the Yuri’s Night spirit, George Whitesides became possibly the only person to be interviewed by both NPR’s Morning Edition and MTV’s Mandy Moore Summer Special in the same day.
Since then, we’ve gone on to have events on all seven continents, be part of an annual ritual on the International Space Station, host a 12-hour webcast and bring together all sorts of scientists, artists, entertainers, and space enthusiasts by the hundreds of thousands. None of this may have happened, though, had we not gotten off to such a fantastic start in 2001.