It was an intergalactic gathering of entrepreneurs, astronauts and space fans at Thursday night for Los Gatos’ second ever Yuri’s Night.
The mixer was just one of 269 events taking place in 51 countries on all seven continents to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the first human flight into space, undertaken by Yuri Gargarin, a Russian cosmonaut.
As Soviet Union footage of Gargarin after his return to Earth and 1950s American astronaut training videos played on the big screens, participants in Singularity University’s seven-day Executive Program, made up of international business owners, venture capitalists and investors, mingled with amateur space nuts drawn to the message of the celebration.
“I’m not a scientist but I love space and am just a fan," said JoAn Smith of Los Gatos. "It’s the final frontier. It’s Star Trek. It’s the unknown, the possibility and what is known."
Thursday also marked the 31st anniversary of the inaugural launch of NASA's Space Shuttle. Two NASA astronauts, Dan Barry and Yvonne Cagle, talked shop and space exploration with attendees.
"This is a profession where it's really true that you stand on the shoulders of giants," Barry said. "Tonight we think about their contribution along with the common dream of leaving the planet and traveling to the stars."
While the gathered group paid tribute to the spirit of exploration that pushed the first man into orbit, many, like Bob Richards, co-founder of Moon Express, a company that is working on being the first private entity to put a robotic lunar lander on the moon, were looking ahead to the future of space exploration.
"Forty years ago, space was only accessible to nation states, and not just that, but super powers," Richards said. "The Soviet Union, the United States, Cold War enemies embattled and engaging the resources of entire countries to go to the moon."
"Fast forward to today where you have entrepreneurial start-up groups like Moon Express where you have less than 30 people executing a moon mission," he continued. "That's how far we've come."
Yuri's Night in Los Gatos is the brainchild of, a senior advisor at Autodesk Inc. and Los Gatos resident who is a faculty member at Singularity. Knowles said that thinking about space is not just for astrophysicists and technology gurus.
"A lot of people who are in real estate, lawyers, people who I think should be thinking about this stuff who aren't necessarily in technology, I want to expose them to this crowd," he said. "I want those minds to connect and meet."
Space exploration, Knowles said, is an innate part of the human experience.
"We as a species are always exploring, pushing and asking, 'Where can we go? What's next? What's out there?' " he said. "That's why we are in Los Gatos. It's because those guys got on their ships and where their maps said, 'End of the world,' they did it anyway. We will not stop doing that, so why not get our heads around it and embrace who we are?"