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all words: Jeff Jetton
all photos: Dakota Fine

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Space: the final frontier. Well, aside from the deep-oceanic and subatomic frontiers that have yet to be competely fleshed out as well. Let’s try this again: Space, looming large in the Obama agenda, was the theme as NASA hosted their own version of Yuri’s Night.

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Also known as the World Space Party, Yuri’s Night is a global celebration of man’s ascent into space.  It’s held every year on or around April 12th, commemorating several galactic milestones: Yuri Gagarin’s April 12, 1961 launch (first manned mission into space) and the first launch of the Space Shuttle, STS-1, on April 12, 1981.

But really, Yuri’s Night is an excuse for the coolest geeks on Earth to take their engineering caps off and put on their Stormtrooper helmets for a night of dorky debauchery and fanboy bacchanalia.

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If your high-school prom had been organized by the kids who were busy taking Calculus freshman year and taking copious notes in AP Chemistry, this is what it would look like.  Trekkies, Star Wars enthusiasts and space lovers of all kinds aligning their Celestial bodies on the dance floor for one perfectly starry night.

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Upon entering the Goddard Space Flight Center, we couldn’t help but notice an old-timer dressed in a blue NASA space suit with a crowd of people gathered around him.  His captive audience seemed more enthralled than a group of kids surrounding Billy Dee Williams in full Lando gear at ComicCon.  Who was this man in blue?

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It just so happened that we were in the presence of an honest-to-goodness, real-live astronaut.  It’s not everyday that one gets a chance to hang with one of the chosen few.  His name is Roger Crouch and we couldn’t wait to ask him a few questions about what it’s like to orbit the Earth (while listening to Scarlet Begonias???)  A D.C. resident, Roger took a few minutes away from his busy schedule and spoke with BYT:

Roger sat back down and immediately whipped out his light saber and busted into his Episode V, ‘Jedi Villain’ routine, making odd sound effects and generally freaking everyone out around him.  He knocked over a plant and made a baby cry.  It was awkard.

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Actually, it reminded us of this:

You’re nobody at Yuri’s Night unless you’ve spent all day prepping your costume.  There were Leia’s in various forms (we prefer Jaba Slave Leia, but like our granddad’s always said when referring to getting Leia’d: any port in a storm).

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This wasn’t BYT’s first time at Yuri’s Night.  We came last year with a crappy camera and a dream.  A dream of seeing a bunch of NASA scientists all dressed as Mace Windu getting busy on the dance floor.  Dream fulfilled:

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We knew what we’d be witnessing this year, so we brought the heavy guns (blasters?) with us for photography’s sake: this was a job for the camera of Dakota Fine.DF10_4.10_Yuris-109

It was surprising, the lack of trekkies at Yuri’s Night.  Star Wars has pretty much taken over as the nerd-fandom movie of choice for Sci Fi lovers.  Given the popularity of the new Star Trek movie, we expected a lot more Kirks and Spocks.  In fact, this woman, dressed as Scotty (we think?) was the lone Trekkie.

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Our disappointment turned quickly to joy as we found ourselves face-to-face with an honest-to-goodness, real-live Jedi Knight.  Roger Crouch, meh.  Who needs astronauts when you’ve got Jedis?!?!  Payload specialists are boring when you’re talking to a guy who can use the freakin’ Force.DF10_4.10_Yuris-112

BYT:  What is ‘the Force’?

Jedi: The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.

BYT: Interesting, is that a light saber you’re holding?

Jedi: That’s no moon, it’s a space station.

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BYT: Huh? No, I’m talking about that thing you’re holding.  Is it a real light saber?

Jedi: This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster, but an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire.

BYT: Okay, that’s what I thought.  Pretty cool. Can I hold it?

Jedi: That’s your uncle talking.

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BYT: What? My uncle?  Bro, you’re pretty weird.  I don’t think you know anything about my uncle or anyone in my family.

Jedi: A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights. He betrayed and murdered your father.

BYT: Oh, I get it, you are supposed to be Obi Wan Kenobi.  Ha ha, funny.  Can you tell me what it’s like working for NASA?

Jedi: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.

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R2D2 made the trek out to Greenbelt for the party, but the dude who manned the remote control didn’t want to talk.  Something about being on a diplomatic mission.  This was starting to get ridiculous.  People didn’t want to break character.  They just wanted to tell us about shutting down all the garbage mashers on the detention level and other nonsense from the Star Wars films.

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Finally we got Queen Amadala to give us a science lesson on rocket trajectories.  It was a welcome departure from having to hear about Wookie Life Debts and Droid repair.  We finally found somebody who wanted to talk about NASA and the future of the U.S. Space Program.

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Wait, nope, Amadala busted out a couple of light sabers from behind her desk and started making waaaaaaaaah, waaaaaaah sounds as she ‘fought’ an imaginary Yoda.  “Look good on Yoda, do pigtails and tie dye, mmmmm?”

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Cue the Mos Eisley Cantina music: 

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Costumes ranged from the expected but amazing

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to the random and frightening but still pretty damn awesome,

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to the downright WTF-ish.  We’re pretty sure that’s Galileo with a laptop and a LogiTech Webcam attached to an old-fashioned wooden tripod.  And one of the Yip Yip Aliens from Sesame Street.

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You remember the Yip Yip Aliens, right? They freaked the hell out of us when we were kids.

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We kinda feel like this next picture would have been a lot funnier if that space shuttle were flying about a foot and a half lower.  Zing.  We bet those two ladies would’ve liked to boldly go THERE!

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(But not as funny as Santa Claus wearing a T-shirt of kitties in space… Jeff tried to get Princess Leia to wear the T-shirt, but she thought he was creepy… see picture below. -DF)DF10_4.10_Yuris-131DF10_4.10_Yuris-115DF10_4.10_Yuris-128DF10_4.10_Yuris-129 DF10_4.10_Yuris-136DF10_4.10_Yuris-134DF10_4.10_Yuris-130DF10_4.10_Yuris-124DF10_4.10_Yuris-135

Time to hit the dance floor.  These NASA kids sure do love to party.  They didn’t want us to take video on the dance floor.  Too much debauchery.  The last thing Obama needs is video of Lord Vader doing coke off of Leia’s breasts and doing that Russian Preesyadka knee-dancing thing.  The conservatives would go nuts. DF10_4.10_Yuris-119

Sorry folks, no video.  We’ve got the next best thing, though.  Here’s the only way we can really describe the scene on the dance floor at Goddard that night:DF10_4.10_Yuris-103

And the nerds go WILD. DF10_4.10_Yuris-118DF10_4.10_Yuris-102

And as quickly as it came, Yuri’s Night was gone.  A brief meteorite shower of good times and blurry memories.  Hopefully we’ll be back next year (as long as Obama hasn’t systematically dismantled NASA).  In the meantime, may the Force be with you. DF10_4.10_Yuris-117

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