The Strange Case of 1I/’Oumuamua

Some months back I made some from the hip comments about ‘Oumuamua, that strange little visitor from outside the solar system. Some of them were superseded by later events, others are certainly debatable. However, in the last week or so, ‘Oumuamua has been in the spotlight due to renewed speculation that it could be artificial, [...]

Is it Really Fifty Years?

This stunning view of the 64km (40 mile) crater Goclenius, taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts, is possibly the image that has most impacted me in my life. Above Goclenius is the triplet formed by Magelhaens, Magelhaens A, and Colombo A, while Gutenberg D is the crater at the top right.   Remembering History We [...]

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. [...]