With apologies to Buzz Aldrin, David Baker absolutely nailed the mechanics of orbital rendezvous with his fascinating talk at the British Interplanetary Society this evening. I wasn’t there – I gather the place was packed – but thanks to the BIS’s new live streaming service I was able to watch the whole thing on my desktop and take snaps along the way. How David manages to hold all that information in his head is beyond me, but it just goes to show what a remarkable achievement the Apollo programme was. Well done David! Can’t wait for your next talk! MP
It’s getting close and it’s got me thinking – Apollo, 50 years on from that historic first step on the Moon by the First Man. Now immortalised in a film of that name, Neil Armstrong seemed to epitomise it all. According to books and films of that period, everyone it seemed was pressed against the window of history gazing at the future unfolding before us. Reflecting back over a lifetime of memories, it wasn’t really like that at all. But nothing new there then, you say! Let me explain.
We’ve all heard stories from the great and the good, astronauts, rocket scientists and the managers that gripped an opportunity and forged a new industry out of political goals and scientific objectives to create a Space Race in the teeth of a Cold War in imminent danger of heating up to boiling point. But perhaps there is little word from those of us at the bottom, who would never start corporations, pilot a rocket-ship, let alone walk on the Moon. But we were THERE, taking part, and that matters a lot because we remember it as it really was – from the inside of that glass bubble looking out.
In 1969 we were waiting for that first landing as a goal – a challenge – thrown down before an ideological adversary who we thought at the time was intent on converting the world to an extreme form of totalitarian, Orwellian labour camp serving the high and mighty at the top. Ah well, the naivety of youth! Some did think of it that way, and I was among them, a battle in the War against oppression and terror, but to a young scientist-turned engineer, part of a group waiting for that first landing to be over, the real meaning of Apollo lay in the work that would follow and this potential was the real value in the work we were doing.
It’s a long story and a journey and I want to take you along with me as it’s told, so no better place to start than at the beginning. Oh, and by the way, keep a copy of Race for Space at your side as you follow the story of that magnificent episode in human history while I open a hidden door on inner aspirations of the time from those of us who really did think we were rewriting the future. There are two sides to every story and with those books and this, you have it all.
And here’s another one from the archives that I think is worth a revisit: Neil and co. in full Moonsuits grappling with the gravity on their home planet. It must have come as something of a relief to step out onto another world! MP
Okay, so they were treated like superstars, featured on magazine covers, and some of them occasionally cheated on their wives… but, as this video snippet from the archives shows, life wasn’t all a bowl of cherries for the Mercury Seven. NASA: what were you trying to do to them?
I put this video together back in 2012 using iMovie 9 and some very, very lo-res footage – but it has a certain charm, I think. Do let me know if you agree! MP
Counting down now to the official launch of The Astronautica Book Club and Race for Space, scheduled for 13 December, which is when our first ad is published in the January 2019 issue of SpaceFlight and we begin our ad campaigns on Google and Facebook. We’ll be running a 30-second video ad on Facebook, so be sure to check out our page! MP
Welcome to the Astronautica Book Club – the specialist online bookstore for space enthusiasts of all ages. In the coming months we’ll be adding a range of titles old and new, kicking off with Race for Space: Race to the Moon – six 96-page hardback volumes recalling the extraordinary story of the early space pioneers and culminating in Neil Armstrong’s unforgettable ‘one giant leap for mankind’ in July 1969. The series is exclusive to the Astronautica Book Club and has been some eight years in the making. It’s written by two of the best known names in space publishing – ex-NASA scientist, award-winning author and editor of SpaceFlight magazine David Baker, and Russian space guru Anatoly Zak (www.russinanspaceweb.com) – and put together by me, Martin Preston.
We’ll also be refreshing and reprinting some older space titles that readers of a certain age may well remember, or even have stored away on a bookshelf gathering dust. Old they may be, but dull they certainly aren’t… and a even a quick glance at their pages recalls the spirit of adventure and optimism that carried men to the Moon more than half a century ago.
If you’re reading this, then your only a couple of mouse clicks away from subscribing to our mailing list, which will enable us to keep you updated by email of new titles and special offers. In the meantime, happy browsing and happy reading. Arguably, we’re only a few years away from what promises to be the most exciting era in human space exploration for decades. Astronautica Book Club will be there to record it – and hopefully, to enhance your reading pleasure. MP