This may seem like a pretty trivial question: save during an eclipse, or when the Moon is low on the horizon and seen through a thick layer of dirty atmosphere, 99.999% of people will answer “grey”, although some romantics will offer “silver”. When you look up at the Moon in the night sky, the predominant [...]
Category: Space flight
The Flight that Saved Apollo Science
Fifty years ago this month, Apollo 15, the first of the big science missions landed on the Moon, took amazing images on the lunar surface, did a record four EVAs (Extra-vehicular Activities, although only three were actual moonwalks, with Commander Dave Scott doing a stand-up EVA to survey the lunar surface around the landing site [...]
Goodbye Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), Hello “Unexplained Ariel Phenomena” (UAFs)
Two of the most common questions if you are a scientist and, particularly, an astronomer are: “is there life on other planets?” and, “what do you think of UFOs?” I will start by answering these two questions: Of course, there is life “out there”. History has shown that every time we take a geocentric or [...]
It is a while since I wrote something and, in the intervening time, important changes have happened. One of NASA’s biggest nightmares over the decades has been lack of continuity: one President, or party starts a programme, and the next cancels it. Again, we are going through a regime change in the United States. At [...]
A Return to the Moon, in More Ways than One?
NASA is gearing-up in a big way to return to the Moon. As of now, and COVID-19 permitting, the first flight of the new Artemis programme that will take astronauts back to the Moon will be in November 2021, with a Moon landing planned for October 2024. AArtemis I is planned to be a long-duration [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]