John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2010 April 11
    On 12 April 1961 Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union became the first 
human to orbit Earth. His Vostok capsule circled the world in 1108 
minutes, then landed safely. His flight galvanized the United States 
to eventually duplicate, then surpass, then trounce the USSR in human 
flight. This 'Space Race' culminated in the American Apollo program to 
send humans to and from the Moon in 1969-1972. 
    Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 there is close 
cooperation of the new Russian republic and the United States in space 
projects. Notable of these is the International Space Station, most of 
which consists of American and Russian modules. 
    The importance of Gagarin's ride into orbit was shamefully 
neglected in the US for many decades while praises were heaped on only 
American astronauts. With the two countries as friendly, it was time to 
put the history straight. The idea of celebrating the anniversary of 
Yuri's flight came about in 1998 and the first Yuri's Night 
celebrations were staged in 2001. 
    Now, all over the world in April Yuri's Night is celebrated. 
Parties, exhibits, shows, and other events are held in honor of this 
first of humans to achieve orbital flight around the Earth. In New 
York City the event is typically a social mixer at a nightclub in one 
of the City's trendy nabes. 
Yuri's Night 2010
    For the 2010 run of Yuri's Night in New York the event was held in 
DROM, a popular nightclub in Tonpkins Square, Manhattan. It is, in 
fact, diagonally opposite the southwest corner of the very square.
    A split stairs headed up to a restaurant and down to the dance and 
club floor. Yuri's Night was downstairs. It was a very classical 
manhattan hall, dimly lighted, loud music, flashing sweeping lights, 
ersatz decorations, linoneum floor.
    And, of course, a long bar on one side. When I arrived at 7:45PM 
EDST on April 10th, the hall had about 30 people already. The cam for 
an earlier 'VIP' reception costing a few tens of dollars. I passed 
this up for the main opening at 8PM with an admission of only $25. 
    After 8PM people starting cascading in, soon filling the room with 
quite 100 guests! The room amply contained them with space to walk 
around or step off to the side. 
    On projection screens were played pictures of a spacey theme, some 
seemingly just swirls and blobs, other somewhat like alien world 
scenes. They were seemingly randomly put up with no synch with the 
space music. No one paid specific attention to this display. It did 
have the collateral benefit of general illumination to the room! 
    The narrator announced a fashion show. On a small podium pranced 
ladies in skimpy outfits, supposedly like those worn by ladies from 
other planets. Believe me, these ladies never checked out Tompkins 
Square right across the street!
    This show was probably a bone for the mostly male crowd. About 2/3 
of the audience were male; 1/3, female. The women tried -- and 
succeded! -- in dressing up. They wore either pleasing party dresses 
or suits or fitted themselfs with space or alien ornaments. The bulk of 
men wore civvies, downright shlepps. 
    A few attendees had laser swords! There was no room to swing them 
for doing battle so they skipped around with them. They blinked them on 
and off, waved them, posed for pictures.
    I was perhaps the most space-dressed male! I wore a celestial 
scarf around my shoulder and waist, held by butterfly clips. Several 
people asked me to pose for a picture!
Sexism in space?
    The fashion show, which lasted only about five minutes, was for me 
plain lousy. The costumes were not at all futurist. They were more 
retro than anything.
    The issue to hand was that this was staged for the little boys 
with nothing offered for the women guests. While in ages past just 
about all space fiction comic books and movies were taken in by boys, 
by now space enthusiasm caters to women as well. This Yuri's Night 
attracted about 40% women in the audience. 
    One women next to me mused that the ladies parade was fine and all 
that, what is there for the female audience? Why not a fashion or 
something show of men? 
    After skipping on the stage, the ladies mingled with the audience. 
They had utterly nothing to add to the intelligence level of the party 
but the little boys buzzed around them to take pictures. 
Eats and drinks 
    Basicly, there wasn't much. Like many clubs, food was taken in a 
separate restaurant section, in the DROM this was in the upstair hall. 
The bar in the party hall served the usual array of hard and soft 
drinks. There were only a small helping of snacks on the bar counter 
that depleted very quickly.
    What surprised me was the very low extent of drinking. While 
people berthed at the bar counter, they seemed to buy very few drinks 
of any sort! Almost no one walked around with a drink in hand! If DROM 
thought it would earn some good revenue from Yuri's Night drink sales, 
it probably fell far short of expectations. 
    I say I was surprised because at other space )and astronomy) 
events where drinks are provided, there is a substantial patronage of 
both hard and soft items. I was more surprised that I myself did not 
take a drink! Normally, I'll get one or two or three or  ... as the 
event rolled along. It took a while to realize, Hey!, I really didn't 
WANT a drink this time. 
Featured talks
    At about 9PM the barker called us to hear the special speakers for 
the evening. I stayed for four of them. Each had five or so minutes 
to have his say, a limit enforced by the barker. 
    Dr Denton Ebel, American Museum of natural History, gave a quick 
explanation of the Stardust mission that collected grit and grains 
from comet Wild 2. The comet came from the Kuiper Belt and brings its 
material to the inner solar system, where Stardust captured some and 
dropped off at Earth in 2006.
    He then described that study of Stardust material, in a sliver of 
the craft's collector pad only a millimeter long. 
    Some one from the Space Frontier Foundation debunked criticism of 
the new NASA plan to junk the Constellation project and move human 
spaceflight to private and commercial industry. He stressed that it 
was NASA's grip on human spaceflight in the past that hobbled and 
retarded the development of a real spacefaring industry. 
    Dr Gregory Matloff, NYC Technical College, played a video he and 
his wife C Bangs, made about saving the Earth with science and 
technology. He suggested that use of natural resources in space, like 
asteroids, to replace those used up or too costly on Earth.
    A fourth person, forget the affiliation, urged that Earth must 
consider space as just an other place in our surrounds. It is just as 
normal to venture to space as it was to cross the oceans and deserts 
on Earth. Eventually, after due exploration and experiments, space 
will become an other place where people will live, like they do in the 
Americas and Australia.
    I left after this fourth speaker, my time about running out.
Rude behavior! 
    During all four speakers, when the audience should be attentive 
and quiet, there was a constant chatter and din in the room. People 
were casually bantering and chattering among themselfs, mindless of the 
interference they caused to those listening to the talks.
    All four speakers showed disapproval but the noise continued. None 
of the DROM or Yuri's Night crew intervened to quiet the room. Not 
even shouts of 'SHhh!' from the listeners calmed the noise.
    The speakers toughed it out and those fortunate to be up close did 
catch mot of their presentation.
    Dr Matloff had an extra problem. Each speaker was handed a mike. 
Matloff, after using the mike for a short introduction, played his 
video. Its sound entered the mike and caused echo and ringing. The 
audio crew seemed unable to correct this. The mike stayed active, not 
even turned off.
Denton Ebel 
    Dr Ebel is chair od the meteorite collection at the Museum and we 
met several times previously. During the milling around we chatted up 
for news and information. He was eager to learn more abut NYSkies, 
noting that he heard of it thru the old AAA. 
    Ebel called attention to an upcoming conference of the 
Meteoritical Society in summer 2010 at the Museum. It's a scholarly 
event about rocks and minerals collected rom outer space. NYSkies (and 
any one else) may attend by simply registering for it. He gave me 
leads to the details, which I'll circulate to NYSkies. 
    He asked for a sample NYC Events,which I'll email to him in a day 
or two. 
The Space Shuttle 
    I brang along a petition form for landing a retired Space Shuttle 
at th Intrepid Museum. The room was too dark and noisy to pass around 
the form. If I left it on the bar counter for signing it would sprout 
wings in an instant.
    I figured to casually sample the audience's sentiment about the 
prospect of having right here in the City a real Space Shuttle. What a 
shocking response I got!
    Almost NO ONE knew what I was talking about! The usual first 
reaction was that I was trying to get NASA to keep the SHuttle in 
service for a few years to 'close the gap' until a new human capsule 
is fielded! This is one proposal knocking around in Congress but it 
wasn't what I was after. 
    I'll start petition circulation at NEAF, April 17-18, and continue 
at Earth Day, April 23-24. NYSkies has a booth at both shows. 
Tompkins Square
    This is one of the early parks set out by the City as part of the 
scheme to leave certain tracts as open land here and there. Vy the 
1980s is fell into a disgusting state of decay and a genuine shanty 
town sprang up in it. Residents in the surrounding blocks avoided the 
park, daring not to expose themselfs to its dangers and health
    In the 1990s the park was cleaned up, rebuilt, and is now a 
thriving oasis for all of East Village and Alphabet City. As I rode to 
and walked from DROM, I sw people coursing in and out of the park.
    East Village, in spite of its still grungy aspect, is a vigorous 
residential district, off of the Manhattan mainstream of traffic. Its 
streets are filled with shops, clubs, restaurants, and now 
trees.People crisscross the streets, heedless of traffic signals and 
oncoming vehicles. Lighting is amazingly subdued, compared to 'bright 
light' districts in other towns. Never the less, it can create 
hazardous shadows and confusing contours for walkers and drivers. 
    Road traffic is chaotic with essentially no on-street parking. The 
area is a bit away from rail transit by a half to a full kilometer, 
but it is threaded thru by several bus lines. I rode to DROM on the 
14th St bus, which stopped exacta mente in front of the club. Going 
home, I walked to 14th St and took the 14th St subway to Brooklyn.
    The dream os the Second Avenue Subway is more or less faded. The 
line was supposed to reach along Chrystie St but this segment is no 
longer actively under consideration. For the next couple decades only 
a short stub in the Upper East Side will be built.
    The area is under strong pressure to new housing that could 
displace the cheaper, cruddy, apartments. Already several id-rise 
buildings dot the blocks, with more on the drawing boards. An other 
pressure is from new York University to build new academic and 
residence halls for the school.
    The fate of the M8 crosstown bus is uncertain. It run sin 8th & 
9th St and St Mark's Pl to connect East Village to all of Manhattan's 
trunkline rails and to Greenwich Village and West Village. Under the 
cost-cutting plans of NYC Transit, slated for summer of 2010, this 
route will cease to run in owl hours and on weekends!
    Yuri's Night is meant to be a funky party, not a serious meeting 
for spacefaring. The silliness of the laser sabers and costumes was 
part of the festivities, as was the space music and pictures.
    The party was planned to run thru, gasp!, 4AN on Sunday, which in 
New York is 'time, gents' hour. I suppose some local folk, within 
walking distance or a short ride, did stay for that long. I also 
suppose there was a continuous turnover of guests, because while I was 
there there was a flow both ways thru the entrance.
    Each year Yuri's Night is in a different location around the City. 
I went to a couple of previous ones as my schedule permitted, more or 
less to represent the astronomy segment of the space profession. I was 
always welcomes, my admission fee being as good as the next fellow's, 
and was engaged in brief convos about space projects.
    All in all, it was a round of goofy fun, something we all need 
once in a while.