How many Apollo launches were there?

This is a posting that is unashamedly for Apollo nerds. If you are over sixty years old, you probably remember Apollo and lived the Moon landings, at least the first one, as I did. People of my generation are bathing in a stream of glittering memories as we pass the fiftieth anniversary of one epic [...]

2001 a Space Odyssey: Good science fiction, but not perfect… the future that it imagined and the astronomy that the film got horribly wrong

If you are a space fan, almost certainly you have seen “2001 – A Space Odyssey”. I was too young to see its original release in cinemas but, more than ten years later, you could still find it projected somewhere in London. It is a remarkable film that coincided in release with the launch of [...]

Usain Bolt v the Saturn V rocket – who wins a race from a standing start?

If you are a fan of science fiction, one of the standard scenarios is the crushing weight that astronauts face on launch: the terrible pressure of terrific g-forces, suddenly slamming the helpless astronauts into their couches and the terrible effort to move that this produces. This is part of the legend of space flight. In [...]

Apollo 13: Fifty Years On – the known disaster and the unknown near-disaster

As the world faces arguably its greatest crisis since the Spanish ‘Flu of 1918-1920 and NASA gears up steadily for the first of its three, planned Artemis flights, which will take man (and almost certainly at least one woman) back to the Moon, there is a certain irony in the fact that Artemis 2, the [...]

Betelgeuse: the Mysterious Star in Orion’s Shoulder

If you are familiar with the night sky and have had some good weather recently, you may have noticed that something is wrong with the constellation of Orion. Normally, Betelgeuse, the bright, orange-red star, marking the left shoulder of the giant, is only a little fainter than Rigel, the blue-white star to the bottom-right of [...]

The Calendar, Father Christmas and the Three Kings

  The Calendar, Father Christmas and the Three Kings Christmas is celebrated in many different ways around the world and at different times. The town of Bethlehem celebrates Christmas no fewer than three times: on December 25th, on January 6th and on January 19th. The reason for this is that the Church of the Nativity [...]

Apollo 12: the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Second Lunar Landing – a story of serial bad luck, a serious mistake and unexplained saliva

Who remembers Apollo 12? It should have been the flight that gave the American public a television spectacular that knocked spots off the short Apollo 11 moonwalk. The first moon landing was basically a PR exercise: the moonwalk was the shortest possible and science was almost an afterthought. The Apollo 11 landing was to give [...]

The Other First Man

Recently, we have celebrated the 50th Anniversary of “One Small Step”. History records that Neil Armstrong was the First Man and that the first manned landing on the Moon was made by Armstrong and Aldrin. History also records that, had things been only slightly different, the first landing could have been made by Grissom and [...]