Celebrating Yuri's spirit of exploration (photos)

At Yuri's Night Education Day, NASA opens the hangar doors to the spirit of enthusiastic education.

James Martin
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NASA hangar

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif.--In a festival that is now celebrated in various forms around the world to recognize the 50th anniversary of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's first human journey into space, more than 6,000 students from around the Bay Area visited NASA's Ames Research Center here for Yuri's Education Day.

With games, a scavenger hunt, and tours of a supersonic F-104 Starfighter, NASA opened its hangar doors to foster the spirit of exploration and education.

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Interactive exhibits

Interactive exhibits, workshops, and presentations by leading scientists, engineers, and technology experts are putting the sciences of space into kids' hands.

Here, participants mingle on a sunny day outside Building 211 at NASA's Ames Research Center.

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Space shuttle tires

The 205-pound space shuttle tires are filled with nitrogen because of the gas' stability at varied altitudes and temperatures; they are inflated to 340 psi.

The main landing gear shuttle tires are only used one time, and are rated to a speed of 263 mph.

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F-104 Starfighter

Lined up along the tarmac, students from Bay Area schools lined up to peek inside this F-104 Starfighter.

Originally a fighter plane, this Starfighter has been used by NASA as a research chase plane, and was last used in 1994.

NASA outfitted this specific plane with a belly camera, which was used in testing to conduct research into different visual landing aids for spacecraft use.

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Cell phones in robotics

Geoff Chiu operates a robot made using a Motorola phone, showing how cell phones can contribute to the field of robotics.

Chiu says cell phones are an ideal base for a starting point in robotics. Cell phones (essentially small computers and integrated transmission systems) are relatively inexpensive, advanced computers which have already been built with many of the components needed for a robot, including cameras, compasses, GPS, communications systems, and reliable power supply.

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NASA's space toilet

Standing among hundreds of children waiting in line this morning along the barbed fences of NASA Ames, one of the more talked-about destinations inside was the "space toilet."

In the weightless environment of space, the collection of liquid and solid waste is directed by the use of air flow, which is filtered and then returned to the cabin.

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Students study meteorites

Students examine rocks at a geologic discovery lab during Yuri's Education Day.
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A Martian settlement

Spurring excitement among a group of boys, this depiction of Martian colonization shows spacemen defending a NASA installation from big green and purple monsters.
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Novice spaceflight group Spacebridge designs and and builds cheap and easy DIY systems for launching instruments and cameras into the stratosphere.

A sort of model rocketry for adults, here we see one of Spacebridge's systems, which was launched, tracked, and recovered in Northern California.

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Two students pose inside Building 211 at NASA Ames Research Center, where the celebration for Yuri's Day let more than 6,000 children loose into an exploration of the sciences of space.
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Launching air-powered rockets

Using bike pumps to pressurize their launch systems, students lined up to compete in a rocket launch distance competition on the tarmac in front of Building 211.
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Heavy vehicles

In addition to the F-104 Starfighter, an H-60 Black Hawk helicopter, and a C-130 Hercules turboprop from the California Air National Guard, the fire crews at NASA Ames brought out some of their equipment including the Crash 10 emergency response vehicle, shown here.
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Scavenger hunt

Participating in a space scavenger hunt, students moved on from the C-130 toward Building 211.
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Cockpit of C-130 Hercules turboprop

Matt Hease of Fremont, Calif., looks out from one of the cockpit windows aboard the C-130 Hercules turboprop.
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Rear cargo hold of C-130 Hercules turboprop

Looking into the rear cargo hold of the California Air National Guard's C-130 Hercules turboprop.
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C-130 tour

National Guard gives a tour inside the C-130.
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Alka-Seltzer rockets

Mixing powdered Alka-Seltzer and water inside plastic cones created fizzing rockets that shot 20 feet off the launchpad after just a few seconds.
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Blowing CO2 into a pH indicator

Demonstrating how subtle the differences in pH level can be, students conduct experiments creating a carbonic acid by simply blowing CO2 into a pH indicator.
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Inside a Black Hawk

Trying out the controls inside the cockpit of an H-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
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H-60 Black Hawk helicopter

Students crowd around the H-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
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SOFIA infrared cameras

Visible light and electromagnetic radiation are just two of the many types of electromagnetic energy produced by objects throughout the universe.

Only by studying all of these types of radiation can we characterize celestial objects and gain a complete picture of the universe's history and evolution.

At this booth, NASA describes how the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), based on a Boeing 747SP wide-body aircraft, uses an infrared telescope to look into space.

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LEGO robotics

Mechanized LEGO systems on display. Many of the projects at NASA Ames' Yuri's Education Day focused not only on education, but on exploration tools that make science fun.

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