Tag Archives: Yuri Gagarin

Martians celebrate Yuri’s Night

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel in space back on April 12, 1961, and the Yuri’s Night World Space Party marking the occasion is Tuesday. The night actually should be a week or so as various organizations mess with the calendar a little and observe Yuri’s Night when it’s most convenient locally.

The MartianIn Seattle we’re calling in the Martians to celebrate Yuri’s Night. Aditya Sood, one of the producers of the film The Martian, will speak at the Museum of Flight at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 16. Sood will discuss the making of the movie and talk about his favorite moments in the story. He’ll also attend a meet and greet reception after the talk.

The Yuri’s Night website lists scores of registered events. The only one in the state of Washington is at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 16 at Pearson Air Museum at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. The free, family-friendly activities will include the construction and launching of pressure bottle rockets and a talk about space exploration from the Oregon L5 Society. Dr. Cameron Smith will be present with his home-built high altitude pressure suit and his high altitude helium balloon, from which he intends to test his pressure suit later this year. Weather permitting, the evening will finish with an outdoor star gazing tour led by a national park ranger.

The Portland State Aerospace Society, a student aerospace group at Portland State University with decades of experience in high-powered amateur rocketry, will host a Yuri’s Night Party at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 12 in the engineering building of Portland State University. Planned events include a “space race” with challenges and games, technology displays from local rocketry and space groups, engineering labs open to visitors, and refreshments. They will also screen the film First Orbit, a reconstruction of what Yuri would have seen on his journey.

Explore Mars

Pacific PlanetariumThe third Friday planetarium shows at Pacific Planetarium in Bremerton will be held Friday, April 15 with shows at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 7 p.m. Explore Mars from above, below, and all around as they compare it to the other rocky planets. The folks at the planetarium just updated their website, and they’re still working some of the bugs out. For example, I’m not able to find the “buy tickets” link that they used to have. We expect you can get tickets at the door. For people coming from the east side of the sound, the planetarium is less than a mile from the Bremerton ferry dock; you could walk it and avoid the pricey ticket for your vehicle on the ferry!

Club events

saslogoThe Seattle Astronomical Society plans its free monthly public star parties for 8 p.m. Saturday, April 16 at two locations: Green Lake in Seattle and Paramount Park in Shoreline. Bad weather cancels the star parties; watch the SAS website or social media for updates.

taslogoThe Tacoma Astronomical Society will host one of its free public nights at 9 p.m. Saturday, April 16 at the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. There will be a presentation about space exploration, and observing if weather permits.

Up in the sky

The Moon will be near Jupiter next Sunday. This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope magazine and The Sky This Week from Astronomy have other observing highlights for the week.


Let’s get Pluto and New Horizons on a postage stamp


Postage doubled between the time of Project Mercury and the Moon landing. And airmail was all the way up to a dime. Stamps from the Greg Scheiderer collection.

I find it fascinating how often my interest in space and astronomy sends me off on a mental trip to another place and time. Beyond the notion that my eyeball often captures photons that left their point of origin before the dawn of human civilization, I sometimes find that the hobby moves me around even within my own lifetime.

It happened again today. I learned during my morning reading about the newly launched effort to get the U.S. Postal Service to issue a commemorative stamp depicting the New Horizons mission to Pluto. This leads me to a confession: I’m a former philatelist.

This is a deep, dark secret that not even my wife knew about. I hadn’t had the stamp album out of the box in probably 40 years. Yet the thing kept following me through nine moves, and probably even more efforts to jettison junk. Somehow, this morning, I found the box, opened it up, and went in search of some of those space stamps I remember so well. As the collected works spread out to take up most of the dining room table, my wife walked in and, with a puzzled look, asked “What’s all that stuff.” Well, its the stamp collection, of course. (It had been in that box she kept asking me to move to another spot after the latest move, back into the house after last year’s remodeling project.)

More stamps

Many nations issued stamps commemorating space heroes. Here is a stamp from Mongolia depicting Yuri Gagarin, a Qatar stamp of Neil Armstrong, one from Romania with Wally Schirra, and a Hungarian stamp of John Glenn. From the Greg Scheiderer collection.

Among the valued items in my stamp box are my stamp collecting merit badge pamphlet and my handwritten notes, on 3×5 cards, for the presentation I made to earn the badge. In the notes I listed three reasons for stamp collecting: money, fun, and learning about other countries. At least one of those is true; stamp collecting is the only reason I know where Qatar is. The Middle-Eastern country issued some gorgeous stamps in the day. Though, now that I think about it, I’m having fun with it today, too! As for the money part, I don’t expect that the stamps a 12-year-old could buy in 1969 for 50 cents per bag amount to much cash value, but if you’re an appraiser who found this post by Googling “million-dollar space stamps” please let me know. (I’ll find a way to monitize this blog yet!)

I wonder if my interest in space had something to do with my interest in stamp collecting. As a kid growing up in the 1960s I was fascinated by the space race, and the stamps of many countries depicted the achievements of space adventures. This wasn’t limited to the United States and the Soviet Union. Many countries issued space commemoratives. Soviet-bloc nations were big on what the Russians were doing, but even tiny places like Dominica, Togo, and Rwanda issued space stamps. Space exploration and the Moon landing captured the imagination of the entire world, not just little space dreamers like me. Somehow my stamp collection languished for four decades. But today I’m glad I have it.

Proposed Pluto stamp

Concept art by Dan Durda for a postage stamp commemorating the New Horizons mission to Pluto. The New Horizons team is pushing for the stamp through an online petition to the U.S. Postal Service.

I’m a big fan of Pluto and think the stamp idea is a worthy one. If we’re going to stick with busting Pluto down to dwarf status, the least we can do is to remind snail-mail users and stamp collectors that the first space mission out that way is due to arrive in July 2015. Organizers say we’ve got to start now in order to have the stamp ready for sticking in three years. It can take that long to navigate the red tape!

So go here and sign the online petition to request a Pluto and New Horizons stamp. The aim is to collect 100,000 signatures to send to the USPS, and they’ve got 4,300 of them as of this writing. That’s not much progress, but the effort is just under way, and getting a boost from the likes of the Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society, Alan Boyle at Cosmic Log, Space.com, Sky & Telescope, and a host of others. Boyle is a big Pluto fan and is the author of The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference, one of three books about the ex-planet about which I wrote last year.

Let’s show our love for space nuts, stamp collectors, and dwarf planets. Power to Pluto!