Happy Aerospace Holidays: Music for Yuri's Night

Back in December, I wrote about Wright Brothers Day, an observance I considered to be sadly little-known, especially given the truly momentous nature of the event it celebrates. While the holiday that's the subject of this blog also celebrates an event of great historical significance, I am proud to say that it is by no means little-known, with at least 163 parties set to happen in 40 countries!

I'm speaking of course, of Yuri's Night, the anniversary of the day (April 12, 1961) that cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to travel into outer space. Twenty years later, purely by chance, April 12th was also the day that John Young and Robert Crippen launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on the first flight of the space shuttle. Naturally enough, twenty years after THAT, in 2001, space enthusiasts decided April 12th was the perfect day to throw a party celebrating space exploration, and in the 11 years since, it's grown by leaps and bounds. Last year, there were parties on every continent (yes, even Antarctica), on the Internet, and in orbit aboard the International Space Station.

Of course, that's not to say April 12th is the only day of the year for showing off your aerospace love. Wright Brothers Day (December 17th), Moon Landing Day (July 20th), and Sputnik Day (October 4th) are all great excuses to celebrate (and I do), but it's Yuri's Night that's the premier worldwide space party.

Personally, I'm very excited, because there are several events in Boston this week and I've never been to a Yuri's Night party that was larger than two people. Since the 12th is a Thursday this week, BU SEDS is celebrating at the Museum of Science on Friday the 13th.

Ideally, I hope you'll be able to find a party near your location using the official party list on and have a similar experience. However, like I said, for the past few years (since I first learned about Yuri's Night in 2008), I wasn't so lucky. Most of the parties are in major cities or areas with an aerospace presence. So if you check the list and find yourself in the same boat I was in, I can sympathize. But don't fret, because you can make the space party come to you!

First of all: dress up! Yuri's Night is all about showing the world your love of space, so if you do nothing else on the 12th, you can still broadcast your enthusiasm to those around you by wearing something spacey as you go about your business. For instance, last year, I wore my "Rats! Space Shuttle Program" T-shirt, decorated my jacket with space mission pins, and wore my baseball cap with the NASA insignia on it.

Second: connect! Even if you've got nobody to party with, you can still watch the live webcast of parties all around the world at

Third: turn up the volume! It's not a party without music to sing and dance to, and there's a lot of great space songs to chose from. As I mentioned to Ron Garan a few weeks ago, I've been putting together a list of space songs that I'd like to share here for the use of others.

ABBA -- "What About Livingstone?." Every space fan has at some point been asked "What's that good for, anyway?" This song describes one possible response.

Angels and Airwaves -- "Love Like Rockets." A love song from the perspective of an astronaut, this song always reminds me of James Lovell, commander of Apollo 13, and his wife Marilyn.

The Beatles -- "Across the Universe." I don't think this requires any explanation.

Europe -- "The Final Countdown." OK, the astronomy's a little questionable (Venus isn't "light-years" away), but it would be crazy not to include this song.

Leslie Fish -- "Hope Eyrie," "Surprise!." A beautiful, serious song about the moon landings, and a funny, less-serious song about the Soviet side of the Space Race.

John Denver -- "Looking for Space" and "Flying for Me." Sad but good, especially together.

Diana Degarmo -- "Reaching for Heaven." "So this is how it feels, reaching for heaven! This is how it feels, kissing the sky!"

Indigo Girls -- "Galileo." Galileo didn't invent the telescope, but he was one of the first astronomers to use one to observe the night sky. What this "king of night vision, king of insight" discovered changed our understanding of the universe forever.

Inspiral Carpets -- "Saturn V." The Saturn V rockets took the Apollo astronauts to the moon, and the rockets themselves were taller than the Statue of Liberty. Small wonder that the singer thinks they "really were the greatest sight."

Elton John -- "Rocket Man." You really didn't think I'd leave this one out, did you?

Kansas -- "Icarus (Born on Wings of Steel)." The world's first aerospace engineer was the mythological Daedalus, who, according to ancient Greek legend, built wings of wax and feathers to escape the palace of the wicked King Minos along with his son Icarus. Daedalus warned his son not to fly too high, but Icarus was caught up in the joy of flying and soared too close to the sun, with tragic results. This modern song about that ancient myth captures Icarus' thoughts.

Jordin Kare and Krisoph Klover -- "Fire in the Sky." The "We Didn't Start the Fire" of space songs, this song describes the history of human spaceflight from Yuri Gagarin to the space shuttle.

Stephen Kay -- "The Challenger." An awesome song in and of itself, with an incredible backstory.

The Long Winters -- "The Commander Thinks Aloud." A bit sad for a party, but a great tribute to the Columbia astronauts.

John Marmie -- "Water on the Moon," "Apophis," "Kepler." Who's more qualified to sing about the solar system than a NASA scientist and part-time songwriter? Also, I recommend looking up his songs "LADEE" and "IRIS", which don't have music videos yet.

Mya -- "Where the Dream Takes You." A lot of early pioneers of spaceflight like Robert Goddard were laughed at for talking about flying to the moon seriously in a time when it was only science fiction. But they kept on, and proved the world wrong.

Nichole Nordeman -- "Brave." Very descriptive of my feelings towards the NewSpace industry -- "So long, status quo, I think I'll just let go -- you make me wanna be brave!"

Owl City -- "Galaxies," "Alligator Sky," "To the Sky." A lot of this artist's songs feature space themes, but these are the ones to which space or flight is most central -- and they're very catchy, too!

The Police -- "Walking on the Moon." "Giant steps are what you take, walking on the moon... "

John Parr -- "Man in Motion (St. Elmo's Fire)." St. Elmo's Fire is an electrical effect that sometimes occurs on the masts of ships during storms. In the olden days, sailors regarded seeing it on as a good omen for their voyage. On a trip "up where the eagle's flying" or even higher, a little luck is quite welcome.

Queen -- "Don't Stop Me Now," "Flash Gordon." Are you a "supersonic man" or the "savior of the universe"? Who says you can't be both!

Rush -- "Countdown" and "Mission." Before we went to see the STS-133 launch, I played Countdown for my father to give him a description of what it would be like. The band actually was present at the first launch of the space shuttle, and this song includes snippets from the mission audio. I think Mission really describes my experience as a space fan, learning about "spirits who fly on dangerous missions, imaginations on fire" and being in awe of what they've done.

Carly Simon -- "Touched By The Sun." I discovered this song through the documentary Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars. "If you wanna be brave, and reach for the top of the sky... "

The Moody Blues -- "Higher and Higher." "Climbing to Tranquility, finding its full worth, conceiving the heavens flourishing on Earth!"

They Might Be Giants -- "See the Constellation." Space exploration began people first looked up at the stars and wondered what they were. Before we could explore space with rockets and robot probes, we did it with telescopes, imaginations, and eyes turned skyward.

Train -- "Drops of Jupiter." Dance along the light of day, and head off to the Milky Way...

U2 -- "Beautiful Day," "In a Little While." In addition to their lyrics, both of these songs have some serious space cred -- the band has used recordings of astronauts on the International Space Station singing along to both in their performances.

Wicked (the musical) -- "Defying Gravity." Everyone deserves a chance to fly.

Louise Warren -- "Destiny." The theme song for the EPCOT ride Mission: SPACE, I memorized it before visiting the park and then sung along at the part in the pavillion where it's played.

Russell Watson -- "Faith of the Heart/Where My Heart Will Take Me." I used to run into my parents' room every time I heard this song to sing along and watch the accompanying music video showing the history of exploration. Apparently there was some sort of TV show afterwards...

Did I forget any? Let me know!