Outer space is the most hostile environment known to man. If a human is exposed to space, they’ll die within seconds, no question, but not the way you’re thinking — suffocation is the least of anyone’s worries. For example, the reduced air pressure causes bubbles to form in your blood — a condition called ebullism. That’s bad. On top of that, all bodily secretions would freeze due to a process called evaporative cooling, which works a lot like sweating to lower your core temperature. Within 10 seconds, your circulatory system would fail; within 30 seconds, your lungs would collapse. Death would occur in less than two minutes.

OK, that’s morbid. It’s certainly more than most people like to think about, but perhaps the steep consequences of failure are what motivate so many to try to explore space. As JFK famously said, we do things “… not because they are easy, but because they are hard … ” Engineers, scientists, doctors, businessmen and dreamers work for the chance to go to space because it is difficult, and by overcoming that difficulty, perhaps we can make the most of mankind’s unlimited potential.

Hostile or not, space inspires this kind of dreaming, and from our attempts at extraterrestrial exploration, we have cultivated a rather remarkable and effective motivator: enthusiasm. The people who are working to lift mankind to the stars aren’t just the aforementioned, but otherwise lay enthusiasts as well: comic book readers, neighbors, parents (and their kids) and even many small business owners united by their vested interest in human advancement.

The Students for the Exploration and Development of Space tries to personify that interest. We aren’t privy to any special knowledge or secrets — we just want to spread the idea that we as a species can and should strive for much more than we are. In exploring space, we understand something greater than ourselves, and in developing space, we harness the power of our aggregate drive to create, and turn it into something beneficial. That’s why we bother to inch our way toward true space exploration, where Mars and Jupiter can become dear friends, not just distant neighbors.

One of the ways achievements in space are recognized is through events like Yuri’s Night, an international celebration in honor of Yuri Gagarin, the first man to reach outer space. People of all walks of life come together and have a good time, maybe with ice cream, a video game or a costume party — usually in a space-themed sort of way. The night is spent just enjoying each other’s company and reveling in the progress made by the United States, Russia, China, India and all of the other 45+ nations involved in the space exploration effort.

In fact, your very own chapter of SEDS here at the University is throwing a Yuri’s Night on the evening of April 11. We rented out the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Building on North Campus, and in with the blessing of the Aerospace Engineering Department, we’re going to have a band, a sundae bar, a Star-Trek-style space simulator video game and, of course, a giant cardboard cutout of a moon.

If you find yourself feeling a little too Earth-bound this Saturday, there’s always the option to come and enjoy our lights, sounds and music. (And maybe the outer-spacey bits too.)

Because space is hostile and will kill you so quickly it isn’t even funny. To turn adversity into inspiration is to overcome it, and move forward into a new, brighter reality.

Ad Astra, my friends.

Arun Nagpal, an Engineering sophomore and Publicity Director for SEDS@UM, on behalf of Students for the Development and Exploration of Space.

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