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Houston Takes Part in the 2021 Night of Ideas

Daybreak at Gale Crater (credits : NASA/JPL-Caltech)

On January 28, the Cultural Service of the French Embassy in Houston will present, in the framework of the Night of Ideas (La Nuit des idées), three discussions around the theme Proche (in English: Closing the distance, or Close(r)) and the resonance of this theme in the context of space exploration and life in the Texas-Mexico border area. The event is part of a 24-hour worldwide Live stream, to be followed on the Nuit des Idées website as well as social media, and which will take the public from city to city, crossing time zones of more than 100 countries.

In Houston, the Cultural Service of the French Embassy is thrilled to be counting on the notable participation of astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Michael López-Alegría, planet scientist Candice C. Bedford from the Lunar and Planetary Institute, as well as sociologists and migration experts from the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, Tecnológico de Monterrey and the University of California Los Angeles.

What is the Night of Ideas

An annual gathering dedicated to the free circulation of ideas and knowledge, the 6th edition of the Night of Ideas, coordinated by the Institut français in Paris, will be held on Thursday, January 28th, 2021 on the theme “Closing the Distance”.

While the health crisis is limiting international gatherings and people’s mobility, the Institut français offers everyone the opportunity to live an unprecedented experience, 24 hours of Night and Ideas, on Facebook, YouTube, and on www.lanuitdesidees.com. Thanks to the richness and diversity of the French cultural network in the world, this event will cross time zones from Oceania to the West Coast of the United States, promote the free circulation of ideas and knowledge and bring local experience to life in a great global live event.

A worldwide programming on January 28

More than 200 Nights of Ideas are expected internationally, from Finland to Kenya and from Fiji to Peru, including the United States, and particularly Houston. In-Depth Conversation will be joined by dialogues across borders, readings in unusual places, nightly walks with activists, micro-trotting, boat or cab trips, and musical and artistic performances.

Discover the worldwide program, by hour or by country.

United States programming starting at 5PM

In the United States, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy will present about 30 digital events to be live streamed from 5PM CST on the global website of La Nuit des Idées, the US website of the Night of Ideas, and the facebook pages of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, the Cultural Service of the French Embassy in Houston, and the Institut français in Paris.


8PM CST - Cross-Border Dialogue : Borders That Bring Us Closer, Borders That Unite Us

Guests : Dr Chad Richardson (University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley), Dr Víctor Zúñiga (Tecnológico de Monterrey), Dr Rubén Hernández León (University of California Los Angeles)

Víctor Zúñiga, Chad Richardson and Rubén Hernández León

The dialogue addresses the issue of closeness, proximity and the ways in which human societies interact with each other through commercial exchange, migratory dynamics, and culture. The discussion focuses on the Northeastern border of Mexico and Texas as a space of union and not just a space of division. Whereas borders are generally thought of as spaces in dispute and conflicts that encapsulate and separate countries, borders also mean contiguity, and contiguity very often produces interaction. This is especially the case of the border along the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Nuevo León, and the state of Texas.

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With the contribution of the Cultural Service of the French Embassy in Houston, the Monterrey Office of the French Embassy in Mexico, the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, and the Institut Français d’Amérique Latine.

12:30AM CST - Humankind Facing the Universe

Guests : Thomas Pesquet (European Space Agency), Michael López-Alegría (Axiom Space), Eric Van der Wal (European Space Agency)

Thomas Pesquet (credits: ESA/Nicole Fischer) and Michael López-Alegría (credits  NASA)

Join French ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría in a conversation as they relate to the theme « Proche » / « Closing the Distance » by sharing with us their experiences and passion for space.

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With the contribution of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Houston and in Washington, the European Space Agency and the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales.

◼ 12:50AM CST - How the Exploration of the Solar System Brings Us Closer

Guest : Dr Candice C. Bedford (Lunar and Planetary Institute)

Mars Curiosity (credits: NASA)

Exploration is in our blood, it is a motivator we all share and a concept that space agencies around the world use to drive scientific discovery into the origins of planets, ourselves, and life as we know it. In order to answer the long-standing questions about our origins, we must work together to design, build and launch complex missions to the far reaches of our solar system. Dr. Candice Bedford discusses planetary exploration and how searching for the answers to humanity’s long-standing questions is bringing us together as a society.

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With the contribution of the Cultural Service of the French Embassy in Houston and the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

Follow the Live Event

Watch the 24-hour Live stream on

The US programming can, in addition, be followed on