Who is Yuri and why are we celebrating Yuri’s Night at Mixers & Elixirs?

Yuri’s Night is upon us, and we’re hosting Mixers & Elixirs: Yuri’s Night on Friday night to celebrate the past, present and future of space exploration.

But wait a second. Who’s Yuri and what’s he got to do with space exploration?

Yuri Gagarin was the first person to be launched into space and orbit the Earth on April 12, 1961. The Russian cosmonaut has since become a symbol of human space exploration and how we can conquer the obstacles that stand between us and the rest of the cosmos. Trapped on our little blue marble in space, for eons we sought to find the truth behind our place in the universe. Now, with technology and an ever-growing catalog of information about the universe, we are starting to venture into our cosmic neighborhood.

Just think of all that’s happened in a little over 50 years — and what 50 more years could bring. We’re peering deeper into space, living in space, and it won’t be long before we (read: everyday people like you and me) can see the darkness of space for ourselves on private space flights.

Yup, there’s certainly a lot to celebrate on Yuri’s Night. So join us tomorrow night and raise a glass to space exploration and explorers everywhere! We’ll have space-themed treats and even “Commander Quest” from Space Center Houston.

Want to get even more excited and inspired? (Of course you do.) Check out the video below from astronaut Chris Hadfield aboard the International Space Station and pictures from cosmic journeys and observations so far!

The Hubble Telescope

Every light in this image from the Hubble Telescope is an entire galaxy.

The Sombrero Galaxy.

The Voyager Spacecraft, which has now traveled into interstellar space — the furthest a spacecraft has ever gone.

Detail of Jupiter from Voyager.

Saturn, as seen from Voyager.


Rice hosts Space Frontiers Lecture Series! [Free]

Find out what’s happening on the Final Frontier in a new series of free lectures offered by Rice University! The first – The Adventure and Wonder of Space Exploration with former astronaut Loren Acton – is tonight at 7 pm in McMurtry Auditorium at Rice’s Duncan Hall.

Busy tonight? Never fear! Subsequent lectures will be given by noted individuals who are experts in their respective disciplines and will highlight different aspects of space exploration from the drive to send humans to Mars to the dangers and risks posed by the space environment. You can check out the other upcoming lectures here.

From Dr. David Alexander, Rice Professor of Physics and Astronomy and creator of the Space Frontiers Lecture series:

More than any other city in the world, Houston is synonymous with the Space Age. In this first decade of the 21st century we have the luxury of taking space exploration for granted, from our use of GPS, the internet, and cell phones to monitor an incoming hurricane, to communicate with business partners, friends and family around the world, or simply to find a nearby restaurant or the score of the Rockets game. But, we have only just begun our journey into space.

The future is alive with possibility, whether it be human exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond, tourist trips to the space station, or the opportunity to open up an escrow account on the timeshare on the lunar habitat.

The next 50 years promises to be as exciting as the first. Hope to see you at Rice tonight!


Happy Birthday George Observatory!

20 years ago, it was still the 80s. The Hubble Telescope had not been launched, nor returned the extraordinary images from the deepest regions of space that inspire such wonder today. Construction on the International Space Station hadn’t yet begun, and Pluto was still a planet.

Girl Scouts

And, 20 years ago today, the George Observatory was born. Since then, countless school children, aspiring astronomers, and people just interested in seeing the beauty of the stars and planets have visited the facility in Brazos Bend State Park.

For 20 years, kids have participated in simulated space missions by heading for outer space in our Expedition Center. Visitors have gazed through our three telescopes, open to the public almost every Saturday night. Through our large 36′ Gueymard Research Telescope, visitors have been able to view the craters on the moon, all of the planets, comets, meteors, eclipses, and various stars and constellations. Using the telescope, a group from the Fort Bend Astronomy Club has discovered more than 400 asteroids – and named five of them. Come by on a Saturday night, and you’ll meet many of them – as they’re frequently on hand to share a look through their telescopes and a passion for observing.

Over the last 20 years, dozens of probes and satellites have been sent to scout nearby moons and planets. NASA has plans to study them in more detail, explore new masses, and is planning the completion of the International Space Station in 2011.

Who knows what the future of space holds for mankind? Supernovas exploding in the deep of space, space colonization, or even intelligent life on other planets. We fervently hope that the George will inspire kids to be a part of the future of science and space exploration, wherever that might lead them – and into an exploration of the unknown. We look forward to discovering the future of space and uncovering new mysteries along with you at the George Observatory.

Looking Back…

In case you were wondering about notable science events that happened around June 27th…

Its just not quite as convenient as an ipod. On June 29th, 1888, the first recording of a classical song was made. The first song recorded was Handel’s “Israel in Egypt,” and it was recorded on a new piece of technology called the phonograph cylinder developed by Thomas Edison. Unfortunately, the new techonology could not hold 80 gigs of music.

Saturn portrait
Creative Commons License photo credit: Elsie esq.

Are we there yet? On July 1st, 2004, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft finally reached its destination of Saturn after travelling through space for almost seven years. The craft split into two pieces upon reaching Saturn; the Cassini orbiter entered Saturn’s orbit while the Huygens probe continued on to land on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan. You can view images the probes have taken of saturn and its moons here.

On July 2nd, 1900, the first Zeppelin was tested. The German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin obtained a patent in 1895 and began constructing his first model in 1889, which was completed almost a year later. The initial flight only lasted eighteen minutes; the zeppelin was forced to land after the winding mechanism broke. Probably the most famous zeppelin moment was when the largest airship ever constructed, the Hindenburg  exploded while landing in front of a crowd of thousands. 35 of the 97 passengers on board were killed. The following video is a newreel that was released about the Hindenburg crash shortly after the explosion.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Karl Palutke

Suffering from a broken heart? On July 2nd, 2001, AbioCor created the first truly artificial heart. It runs on a rechargable power source. The heart is still being perfected, as it currently extends the life of a patient by only 12 to 17 months. Also, due to the large size of the technology, it can only be implanted in large patients. However, it’s only a matter of time until anyone can resemble RoboCop.