Sir Patrick Moore’s picnic

The British Interplanetary Society were again invited by Sir Patrick Moore to have a picnic at his home in Selsey, after the success of a similar event held in previous years. After weeks of rain, we were extremely lucky with glorious sunshine for the afternoon.

People set up their picnics in groups around the garden, while talks were held in the main marquee, and stands with a raffle, BIS information and models were there to browse. Halfway through the afternoon, they opened up the telescopes for people to admire. My friend Amjad, who I met in Florida at the launch of STS-135, was excited to see these:


We squeezed into the small wooden shed, housing one of Sir Patrick’s precious telescopes, as a queuue formed outside:

Nick, myself, Amjad and Angela

My friend Angela, who I also met in Florida at the launch of STS-135, went to talk to Sir Patrick:

Sir Patrick, Colin Philp (BIS), Angela

My friend Nick was a lucky winner in the raffle, and helped Sir Patrick select the next ticket:

Sir Patrick, Colin, Nick

 Several members of UKSEDS were in attendance:

Ryan, Nancy, Richard, myself, Sir Patrick

On leaving the picnic, my friend pointed out the wonderful weather vane on Sir Patrick’s chimney, as pictured below.

Sir Patrick’s wind vane

A true giant and champion of astronomy and science in the UK, it was an honour and privilege to meet him.

FIA Spacezone: Careers Day – Astronaut Tim Peake

ESA’s astronaut, Tim Peake, delivered the following keynote address to start the Careers Day organised by the UK Space Agency, in the space zone of the Farnborough International Airshow.

ESA’s astronaut, Tim Peake
“It’s great to be here in Farnborough and actually it’s great
to be in the UK as I’ve spent much of my year outside of the UK.  My dream is to go into space and it always
has been, but it’s been my passion for aviation that’s got me where I am today,
so I am delighted to be surrounded by aircraft and aviation enthusiasts.
I recently had a trip to a new dentist; he asked me my
profession, so I said I work with the European Space Agency. He jokingly said “Ahh, so you’re an astronaut then?   So I said “well actually yes, I suppose that
is my title”, and there was this awkward silence where he thought is this guy for
real, just pulling my leg or is he just mad?

It’s funny how when most people think of a profession linked
to the space industry they think of astronaut, but it’s probably the
profession within the space industry that employs the fewest people. Something
that has amazed me over the last 4 years that I’ve been involved is the sheer
breadth and diversity of the careers that are available within the space
As an astronaut I
have to be a little bit of a jack of all trades and hopefully a master of some
of them, but when you train for that role you get to meet an enormous variety
of people from different backgrounds, and that’s been a real privilege to meet
so many people in this industry from different backgrounds, all essentially
employed within the space industry. Its true to say most of these people do have
a strong academic background in STEM subjects, I certainly do believe that it’s
really  important that we do encourage our
young generation and children of all ages to really embrace these STEM
If you just take my work place as an example, the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, a tiny fraction of the industry, you’re going to
find medical doctors, physiotherapists, psychologists, linguists, IT experts, scientists
and engineers, even professional divers who work there, and the odd astronaut.

Today so much of the space sector relies upon strong
international partnerships that having the ability to speak a second language
is very important. This is something that I now have to do and I’ve definitely
found that to be one of the hardest aspects of astronaut training to date.
As well as being involved with an industry offering enormous
variety, it’s also an incredibly exciting and important time to be involved in
space. What we do in space tends to push our capabilities, our knowledge and
our technology to the absolute limits, whether its searching for dark matter or
researching new vaccines, MRSA and salmonella for example, or even
understanding climate change and searching for new energy sources. Space has also
become an integral part of our daily life, and we are ever more dependent on it
for our everyday lives.
Industry plays a major role in some of the major challenges
we face today, such as climate change, managing food, energy, water resources,
and important things such as planetary protection, from both solar radiation, and
potential asteroid impacts. That’s been a fantastic fascinating journey that I’ve
had this year in working  with NASA’s
exploration branch in finding out just what we are doing in terms of planetary
Space is also becoming ever more accessible, this year we’ve
celebrated the success of SpaceX, the first commercial company to launch cargo,
dock to the international space station and return payloads back to earth. Space
tourism is set to boom, with the onset of companies such as Virgin Galactic
offering the experience of sub orbital space travel and rapid development of
things like cubesat technology is offering fast, low cost, access to space and with
this commercial sector gaining strength, comes new and exciting career

The success of UK industry for the past
ten years has enjoyed incredible growth at 7.5% and the recent innovation growth
strategy report has set the challenge to grow it from the 7.5% it is today to
10%. That would return about £40bn a year to the UK economy. So these are fantastic
opportunities for our younger generations, and I’m really encouraged by the momentum
and positive direction that the UK has within its space sector.
I’ve also had the good fortune to be working with academic
institutes such as Kings College London, who are drawing in students from all
over Europe with their unique courses in space physiology and health and also extreme
physiology. And this really does highlight one of the UK strengths in space
I know we’re going to be hearing a lot more today about the
many schemes that are available to encourage careers in space industry, and to
give you an idea ESA itself has a very active recruitment policy and has been
building educational outreach programme for young children working in
collaboration with ESERO in addition to offering student placements, internships,
work experience, young graduate training schemes and even post doc research

Now from a more personal perspective, my journey into the
space industry has been slightly unorthodox. I actually left school aged 18
with three average A-levels, in maths, physics and chemistry, and whilst I had
the opportunity to study aeronautical engineering at university, I was
determined to be an army helicopter pilot and I thought that my time would be
better spent by starting my flying career early. So I packed my bags and headed
off to the royal military academy at Sandhurst to become a military officer and
a pilot, knowing that the journey was going to take several years to achieve. It
wasn’t until many years later age 33 that I obtained my bachelors in flight
dynamics, and that was while I was also studying to be a test pilot.
Looking back now I’m absolutely certain that I made the
right choice because having a bachelors degree was very important and was
highly desirable from the ESA’s point of view during the astronaut selection, but
it was my years of operational experience, my professional qualifications, and
what many people would call ‘life skills’ that are the reason that I have this
wonderful opportunity to fly into space.
So while my journey has been slightly unorthodox, it does highlight
that anything is absolutely achievable with hard work , determination, and above
everything else, an absolute passion for what you’re doing, and I think this is
the real key message that we have to pass onto our younger generations.”
Carl Walker (ESA), Tim Peake, me
(Photo credit: ESA)

FIA Spacezone: Space Day – Space Conference

I was excited to be invited by ESA to attend the Space
Conference at the Farnborough International Airshow, on Tuesday 10th
July, to help publicise the event via twitter and social media. Several top figures from ESA, Roscosmos and other space agencies gave presentations.

J J Dordain (ESA), F Profumo (Italy), D Willets (UK), V Popovkin (Roscosmos)

The Italian Minister for Education, Francesco Profumo,
stressed the importance of ESA in enabling Europe to share space costs, leading
to progression even through the financial crisis.
Jean Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA, put his
emphasis on the need to change quickly, as things are constantly changing
around us, with competitiveness and growth as the mantras for the future, and adding
that both the UK and ESA had learnt a lot from each other.
The Head of Roscosmos, Vladimir Popovkin, stated that Russia
remains the leader in many space activities, though also spoke of the need to
change with the times, with the commercialisation of space. Russia’s priorities
are practical benefits from space, and exploring interplanetary systems, involving
both private business and international co-operation. He also mentioned the
need to modernise international space law. “I’m very glad that today we have
mutual solutions with Europe on programmes such as Mars, the Moon and
satellites of Jupiter.”

David Willetts speaking
David Willetts, UK Minister for Universities and Science,
talked about the 300 million euro contract placed by ESA with UK space industry
to build solar orbiter, the largest single contract in two decades, and the
twelve new companies already established at the ESA facility in Harwell,
together with the first instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)
having been delivered by the UK earlier this year. “I am pleased we have
identified a viable way forward for Exomars following NASA’s withdrawal. I
would like to give my gratitude to our Russian friends for stepping into the
breach with us and other ESA member states so the mission can proceed”.
In November, there is an ESA ministerial conference which
will set out the agency’s direction for the next five years.
To hear some of the speeches in full, visit ESA’s website.

Lecture by British astronaut, Helen Sharman, and former Soviet Cosmonaut, Anatoly Artsebarsky

Rocket Science! UK & Russia in orbit 

Helen Sharman & Anatoly Artsebarsky
This event was held as part of the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition, on Sunday 8th July. Helen Sharman became the first British astronaut on 18 May 1991, when the Soyuz TM-12 mission, with Anatoly Artsebarsky and Sergei Krikalev, flew to the Mir Space Station. I had been lucky enough to meet Sergei Krikalev at the ISS Symposium in Berlin in May earlier this year, so it was a lovely opportunity to meet his crew mates. Dr Helen Sharman OBE talked first, after introductions from the
British ambassador in Moscow and the Royal Society.

“We don’t often get the chance to meet any more. 21 years ago
we did everything, and I mean everything, in the same room. This is the first
time we’ve met in London and our first presentation that we’ve done together.
As far as I’m concerned, science is all around us all the
time. You can’t do anything without it, most of the time you don’t think about
it. But when you’re in space you have to know about it in order just to stay

Star city is a few km north east of Moscow, at the time it
was a military base for all cosmonauts. 2,500 people lived in star city. I arrived
there as a scientist, I was a chemist.
Parabolic flight experience
We trained in a plane that would fly parabolas, which simulated
23 seconds of weightlessness for each of 10 loops.  We had sea training, a mockup of the re-entry
spacecraft, how to come back and survive in this thing. We wanted to land on
dry land, Kazakhstan, nice and flat, easy to land on. You might think landing
on water would be easier, diving into it, but if you just want to land, then water
doesn’t absorb much of the energy of the impact. On land, you can use
retro-rockets to give you a bit of a boost just before you make that final
touchdown, and you’ve got the land itself, which has air pockets, which can
absorb some of that energy. So a landing on land is softer than that on water.
Though, as there is more sea than land, we had to have training just in case.

Helen Sharman showing a photo of the UK she took from Mir
The previous crew had been on Mir for six months, they were
looking forward to seeing other people and we were looking forward to seeing
The crew was chosen, the backup crew were chosen, and then
the crew trains together. You get to know each other very well, get to know each
other’s families, likes, dislikes, so when you come to fly there are no secrets
left by the time you are having to share absolutely everything.
18 months training, for 8 days in space, a lot of training,
for 8 days. It wasn’t glamorous, but I hope you’ll agree, I think it was the
most fun job in the world. The max forces on lift off were 3.5g, but as you are
lying on your back, they go through your chest to back, rather than head to
toe, so there is not a risk of blood being forced out of your head and
fainting.  Landing involves 4.5g, even
more force. All I did for 8 days was to fall around the Earth. At this time the
Mir space station was made up of 3 modules.
Helen Sharman and Anatoly Artsebarsky
It takes 5 seconds to travel west to east across London, 20
minutes to cross Africa, but 40 minutes to cross the Pacific Ocean, it makes
you realise how little of the world you know.
You have to eat lots of fibre, daily dried fruit, prunes etc
are required, to ensure you have bowel movements. Building a toilet in space is
one of the most ingenious things ever invented. It has an air flush, which gets
rid of everything and any odours. The Russians recycle everything, so turn it
back to pure water, which could be drunk. However, the psychologists suggested it
would be better to use it for something else, so they electrolyse the water to
produce oxygen and hydrogen, in order to recycle oxygen into the station for us
to breathe. I’m waiting for them to recycle carbon dioxide with the recycled
hydrogen to make recycled carbohydrates, the first recycled cookie in space
some day!
The problem with no convection means that if you are
sleeping, the carbon dioxide that you breathe out will just hang and form a
cloud around you, and eventually you would die from breathing your own carbon dioxide.
Therefore fans work all the time on the space stations, to move the air around.
When de-orbiting, as you enter the atmosphere you can see a
plasma ionising around you, which turns from orange to yellow and white. From
the window you could see the spacecraft melting.
To quote Arthur C Clarke: ‘An organism ceases to exist when
it stops pushing its boundaries’, we have great opportunity to learn about
ourselves in space. Scientific discoveries will enhance lives. There are
arguments you can do more science for the same money on Earth, but there is
some science that can only be done in space.”
Anatoly Artsebarsky with his translator
 Anatoly Artsebarsky appeared genuinely happy to be here, after not
having seen Helen in 20 years. 
“This is a good omen now that the UK Space agency exists,
and started with the UK-Russian space year (2011). I hope we will co-operate
permanently. It has always been a regret that UK was just doing unmanned space
flight, I hoped that Helen’s flight would be the start of more. All astronauts
of 51 years of spaceflight history have spent 100 manned years in space,
whereas Helen, the only British astronaut, spent 8 days. Space can be explored
in collaboration with others, I am hopeful the international effort will be
joined by the UK. I was grateful to Gorbachev for his decision for Helen to
fly, and his decision for things to continue.” 
In response to a question about whether government agencies
were still needed for space exploration, given the recent SpaceX flight,
Anatoly said “I think it’s best to pool resources, not everything is best
privately, only the best can achieve the most.”
Answering what did he miss, when being in space, he
responded “We had so much work to do we cut sleep, we didn’t have time to miss
much on Earth, though when seeing storms over Africa we did miss the smell of
earth, the sound of rain, the simple things. We only looked through the windows
when it was required for work. When it was night time in the USA we were supposed
to sleep, but we also had to observe American military secrets!”
Anatoly Artsebarsky and myself

Parliamentary Space Committee Summer Reception

Members Dining Room,
House of Commons
The Parliamentary Space Committee (PSC) is a cross-party
group of MPs and Peers who aim to raise awareness and understanding of the
great benefits of Britain’s important role in space, while promoting dialogue
between politicians and the space community. Around 120 representatives of
industry, government and academia attended the reception. I was very grateful
to have received an invitation to this event, held on 4th July.

The chair Adam
, MP for Windsor, praised Stephen McPartland, Vice Chair for
Telecommunications, for his involvement with the UK Galileo
competition. He also thanked Mark Garnier, Vice Chair for Regulatory Reform,
who has been working on redefining the outer space act to ensure it stays
commercially viable in the future.
“It has been a very promising year for space; David Willetts
is the strongest voice for space.”
Then Colin Paynter,
Chief Executive of Astrium Ltd, addressed the room:
“The Parliamentary Space Committee is more active and
vibrant than ever before. Since I first briefed Adam (Afriyie), it has been
seen as representing growth and policy, not just science.
People often quote me as saying “space is recession proof”,
although I never said that. Overall the sector continues to grow: the UK has 6%
of the world satellite market, Astrium took over Surrey Satellite Technologies
Ltd (SSTL) which is still growing and Galileo delivered a healthy return for
the UK.
We sell not only to the developing world, last year we sold
a satellite to America and one to Japan, as well as China and Europe.  We invest seed money in early stages. SSTL have
been supported by a grant to build NovaSAR, the first
Constellation satellite, and I’d like to personally thank David Willetts for
making that happen. I am optimistic about the future with David Williams and
his team at the UK Space Agency.
At the turn of the year, the Technology Strategy Board
announced the Satellite
Applications Catapult Centre
, which follows on from great work in academia,
industry and government. Our aim is to anchor downstream jobs in the UK.
Occasionally I envy other countries their larger space budgets; however, we are
the most export focused country in Europe.”
Rt Hon David Willetts,
Minister of State for Universities and Science, started by acknowledging:
“We know how much work goes on to
keep the profile of space high in Parliament. People across Parliament need
reminding of what space has to offer. Our structuring means we are well placed,
nimbly footed, commercially aware, and have a range of companies from big to
small, from Astrium to SSTL. Sometimes it’s our job to let things develop and
not get in the way.
The Space Leadership Council drew
up the Commission Technology Roadmap, to get the Exchequer and Industry to have
confidence in each other and long term plans. 
They also meet for discussions with ESA in the fall.
Building on our export successes, the 50 year celebrations
of Gagarin’s first spaceflight which took place in 2011 went down very well
with the Russians. I made a brief visit to Brazil, as Latin America will become
an important market. There are also opportunities to open up exports with India
and the Far East. However, we need to ensure that necessary export clearance
must not be cumbersome, which needs to be discussed with other agencies.
We will be unveiling our space security strategy next week, which
is the result of collaboration with the Ministry of Defence and the Home
office. This represents civil and security thinking all in one single coherent
document. We look forward to seeing you again at Farnborough next week. We in
government are committed to working in this exciting sector with so much
potential for the future.”

For further information about the speakers, click here.