Is it Really Fifty Years?

Remembering History We are starting what is going to be an emotional period of time. We have just passed the fiftieth anniversary of the first of the manned Apollo flights – Apollo 7, although the mission badge showed it as Apollo VII – which launched on October 11th 1968 and landed, after a fraction under [...]

What Makes Tonight’s Lunar Eclipse Remarkable? The total lunar eclipse of July 27th/28th 2018

By now, just about everybody must have heard of tonight’s total lunar eclipse. It is a particularly unusual one for many different reasons, so it is not one to miss. A whole number of phenomena coincide to make it unusual: The eclipse is the longest of this century – it is predicted to last for [...]

The Spectacle of a Blood Moon and Mars: the total lunar eclipse of July 27th/28th 2018.

If you live in Western Europe, moonrise on Friday July 27th will be particularly unusual. For the inhabitants of Madrid, Paris and Stockholm, the Moon will rise just about at the same moment that the Moon is totally eclipsed. To the west of this line – for example, London, Dublin or Oslo – totality will [...]

How many Apollo astronauts are still alive? [Further Updated: 22/04/2019]

[I have updated this article again after previously re-releasing it when news of the death of Apollo 12 and Skylab 2 commander, Al Bean became widely known, although it had been announced a few days previously. With the death of Al Bean, just four Moon-walkers survive, the youngest of them, 83 years old. Al Bean [...]

Whatever Happened to the Mercury Seven?

Although the first astronaut class was not formally introduced to the public until April 9th 1959, the Mercury programme started in 1958: sixty years ago. Many people are familiar with the Mercury astronauts through The Right Stuff, based on Tom Wolffe's wonderful book, although that film concentrated principally on just three members of the group: Alan [...]

The Sunspot Cycle and its Possible Effects on Future Manned Spaceflight

We have known for more than a century that solar activity shows a pronounced cyclic variation with an 11-year period. About every 11 years there is a maximum in activity and sunspots become very prominent and very common. Back in my younger days, I was a keen solar observer during one particular holiday around the [...]

Where is Starman Heading: Will it be observable to future Martian astronauts?

JPL has produced a further update for the orbit of the Tesla, although the rate of arrival of new observations has slowed. With the Tesla now below magnitude 20 and, with the Moon close to full, it is unlikely that there will be a new orbit update for at least another week or ten days. [...]