The Space Race

I have to thank my friend and relation Chris Benson for putting this unique package of videos together. I just quote from what he sent me:

“I just watched a 2005 BBC documentary on the Space Race. I thought it was superb – I thought I knew all of that stuff, but I didn’t – such as a Soviet probe at the same time as the Apollo 11 moon landing. Even the bits I did know were incomplete, like the simultaneity of Alan Shepherd’s and Yuri Gagarin’s training.

Here they are in four one-hour episodes on YouTube:

Space Race: Episode 1: Race for Rockets (1944-1949)

Space Race: Episode 2: Race for Satellites (1953-1958)

Space Race: Episode 3: Race for Survival (1959-1961)

Space Race: Episode 4: Race for the Moon (1964-1969)

The series was made in cooperation with an American and a Russian television company. But if you are asking “What about Blue Streak?” or “What about Woomera?”, then you need this 2004 BBC documentary:

The British Space Race Part 1

The British Space Race Part 2

So many thanks indeed to Chris. Keep up the good work!

Wake Up Rosetta

On Monday morning 20th January 2014 at 11:00am Central European Time (10:00am GMT) a snoozing spacecraft will be woken up nearly 1 Billion kilometres from Earth. It’s needed a long sleep, because it will have a lot of (literally) ground-breaking work to do.

It’s an interesting alarm call. ESA would have to send the wake-up call some 45 minutes in advance – it would take that long for the signal, traveling at the speed of light, to reach Rosetta from Earth! But it’s automated and here’s an excellent ESA explanation of the process (many thanks to Emily Baldwin – @AstroEmz on Twitter) of The Most Important Alarm Clock in the Solar System.

This mission is truly amazing – to get a spacecraft (Rosetta) to coincide and then fly with a comet 800 million kilometers from Earth, and hurtling towards the Sun. But not only that, to then deposit the Philae landing craft onto the comet itself to dig into the makings of this 4.5 billion year old fragment of the formation of the Solar System itself!
This can only be described as the biggest scientific and technological encounter in history and is the result of over a decade of planning and work by the European Space Agency (ESA), DLR, CNES, NASA, and many scientists, astronomers, universities and industry.

To put 800 million kilometres into perspective, it’s over five times the distance between the Earth and the Sun – Deep Space!


Seven minutes of terror when the Mars Curiosity (MSL) rover undertakes its planned descent to the Martian surface …

Team members at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory share the challenges of the Curiosity Mars rover’s final minutes to landing on the surface of Mars

Now that’s what I call systems engineering!