"Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring." Dr Carl Sagan (RIP).


Welcome to my new home on all things that interest me 'above our house', this used to reside on my name site

Drakes Equation    Andromeda    Space Images & Video    ISS    Aristarchus    Moon     Mars    Earth     Solar System

 Manned Spaceflight   Carl Sagan     Comets     Asteroid Belt

Two of the most memorable experiences I had were firstly, in Dorset UK, in 1983. I took my young son out at midnight to go satellite tracking and we looked at a heavens unspoiled by city lights and pollution - hundreds of thousands or millions of stars glistened in a clear sky. It was breathtaking. Secondly, in 1998,  my wife and I stayed at my sisters in Cornwall. Her bungalow is on top of a hill overlooking St Ives on the right and Penzance on the left. I went out to look at the night sky and was struck by a scene of infinite beauty - the whole sky was pitch black, no lights, no clouds, no moon, no pollution, nothing except a blanket of millions of stars! The entire Milky Way was spread out over my head - what a sight! As if that wasn't enough, I had some fairly powerful binoculars with me, so the sky became full of stars even in the "dark" patches. I looked to the east and saw a particularly bright object, it was Jupiter in all her glory, through the bino's I could see three moons clearly. Now I know how Galileo must have felt, astounded and bewildered. When I got home to the sprawling metropolis of NE Birmingham, the same sky, yielded hardly a glimmer due to artificial light - how horrible! City people are missing such a spectacle.  My first lunar eclipse was observed in the dark skies of Devon, in Tiverton to be exact. Much better than the cities! 2014 - Since I wrote that, Birmingham (UK) Council have been replacing all its city and suburb lights with LED lighting which is sky friendly. Only last night I stood on my front porch and looked at the sky, and took images of the moon, with the street lights on!  The problem with living in the UK is the weather. Much of our weather is generated by the seas that surround us. I have only ever been able to see one comet in my life, and that was in my teens on The Wirral.

Ever since I was a child, I have fantasized about the night sky. Dreamt about flying to the stars, about alien life forms coming here. Even then, before all the current UFO hysteria in films etc, I used to wonder what would happen if one landed. I have spent a lifetime watching meteors hurtle to destruction in our atmosphere. I have seen a UFO too!  During the "Cold War" I observed hundreds of satellites pass over my head, now I have to really search for them, the best are the polar satellites. Regularly the International Space Station passes overhead. Stephen Hawking, physicist and cosmologist, reasons that it is impossible for there NOT to be other life, intelligent life, in the Universe.

As a youngster I would avidly watch all those programmes on TV showing the Mercury space shots, and then Gemini. Cheering the Americans and booing the Soviet successes, brainwashed by the propaganda I suppose. The US propaganda, even in space programmes ,were quite obviously anti soviet! I would devour anything in the media, cutting out all those newspaper pictures of newly discovered terrain in our solar system. Those first pics of Mercury, the cloud cover on Venus, the "canals" of Mars. What an age - so many discoveries - such spectacular successes. The tragedies too - that awful day when I saw the news about the death of those three astronauts, Grissom, Chaffee & White. The feeling of dismay. Then the same feelings when I sat in my living room watching Challenger as it rose to its funeral pyre. Watching live on TV seven explorers disintegrate before my eyes. They did reach the final frontier. I watched every footage of TV on Apollo missions, including all those beautiful moon walks and "rover" drives across the lunar landscape! Oh I wish! And that lunar astronaut doing the Galileo gravity test - it worked!

The spectacular success of the Voyager spacecrafts opened still further the boundaries of human knowledge. Those never to be forgotten pictures of Jupiter, its moons, its rings. Of Saturn and its moons and spectacular rings (who does not know what the Cassini division is now!). Onwards to Uranus and Neptune and into the realms of interstellar space. Will a Klingon Bird of Prey, eons from now, spot an old piece of space debris, voyager 2, and blast it into millions of bits for target practise, just as in the Star Trek film? Who knows what is in the future?   (Do we humans have a future?). 

Voyagers Surpass 10,000 Days Of Operation

The intrepid twin Voyager spacecraft, launched about two weeks apart in the summer of 1977 and now heading out of the solar system, continue making history. On
Jan. 5, 2005 the Voyager team noted a milestone with a nice round number: 10,000 days since Voyager 2's launch. On Jan. 21, 2005 Voyager 1 also passed 10,000 days. Both spacecraft are still going strong and are returning valuable science data. Each Voyagers' cosmic ray detector, magnetometer, plasma wave detector and low-energy charged particle detector all still operational. In addition, the Ultraviolet Spectrometer on Voyager 1 and the Plasma Science instrument on Voyager 2 continue to return data. Both spacecraft are expected to continue to operate and send back valuable data until at least the year 2020.  http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/news/tenthop.html  2011 - For the past two years or so, Voyager 1 has detected phenomena unlike any encountered before in all its years of exploration. These observations and what they may infer about the approach to the termination shock have been the subject of on-going scientific debates. While some of the scientist believed that the passage past the termination shock had already begun, some of the phenomena observed were not what would have been expected. So the debate continues while even more data are being returned and analyzed. However, it is certain that the spacecraft are in a new regime of space. The observed plasma wave oscillations and increased energetic particle activity may only be the long-awaited precursor to the termination shock. If we have indeed encountered the termination shock, Voyager 1 would be the first spacecraft to enter the solar system's final frontier, a vast expanse where wind from the Sun blows hot against thin gas between the stars: interstellar space.

Those damn shadows get everywhere! (Babylon 5) One of the best ever sci-fi TV series

About Sally Ride

In a space agency filled with trailblazers, Sally K. Ride was a pioneer of a different sort. The soft-spoken California physicist broke the gender barrier 29 years ago when she rode to orbit aboard space shuttle Challenger to become America’s first woman in space.

Ride’s contribution to America’s space program continued right up until her death at age 61. After two trips to orbit aboard the shuttle, she went on an award-winning academic career at the University of California, San Diego, where her expertise and wisdom were widely sought on matters related to space. She holds the distinction of being the only person to serve as a member of both investigation boards following NASA’s two space shuttle accidents. She also served as a member of the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee, also known as the Augustine Committee, in 2009, which informed many of the decisions about NASA’s current human spaceflight programs.

"The selection of the 1978 Astronaut Class that included Sally and several other women, had a huge impact on my dream to become an astronaut. The success of those woman, with Sally paving the way, made my dream seem one step closer to becoming a reality," said Peggy Whitson, Chief of the NASA Astronaut Office.

However, Ride’s place in history was assured on June 18, 1983, when she rocketed into space on Challenger’s STS-7 mission with four male crewmates.

“The fact that I was going to be the first American woman to go into space carried huge expectations along with it,” Ride recalled in an interview for the 25th anniversary of her flight in 2008. “That was made pretty clear the day that I was told I was selected as a crew. I was taken up to Chris Kraft’s office. He wanted to have a chat with me and make sure I knew what I was getting into before I went on the crew. I was so dazzled to be on the crew and go into space I remembered very little of what he said.”

“On launch day, there was so much excitement and so much happening around us in crew quarters, even on the way to the launch pad,” Ride said. “I didn’t really think about it that much at the time . . . but I came to appreciate what an honor it was to be selected to be the first to get a chance to go into space.”

Ride joined NASA as part of the 1978 astronaut class, the first to include women. She and five other women, along with 29 men, were selected out of 8,000 applicants. The class became known as the “Thirty-Five New Guys” and reported to the Johnson Space Center the next summer to begin training. Ride trained for five years before she and three of her classmates were assigned to STS-7. The six-day mission deployed two communications satellites and performed a number of science experiments.

Following that historic flight, Ride returned to space on another shuttle mission, STS-41G in 1984. The 8-day mission deployed the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite, conducted scientific observations of Earth, and demonstrated potential satellite refueling techniques. She was assigned to a third flight, but transitioned to a role on the Rogers Commission that investigated the Challenger accident after that shuttle was lost in January 1986. When the investigation was completed, she accepted a job as a special assistant to the NASA administrator for long range and strategic planning.

Ride left NASA in August 1987 to join the faculty at the University of California, San Diego, as a professor of physics and director of the University of California’s California Space Institute. In 2001, she founded her own company, Sally Ride Science, to pursue her long-time passion of motivating girls and young women to pursue careers in science, math and technology. A native of Los Angeles, Ride graduated from high school there in 1968 and enrolled at Stanford University. At Stanford, she earned four degrees, including a doctorate in physics in 1978. She also was an accomplished athlete who played varsity tennis at Stanford after being nationally ranked as a youth. Ride received numerous honors and awards during the course of her career. Most notably, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the von Braun Award, the Lindbergh Eagle, and the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award.



Thanks to NASA, JPL and others for some great pictures! Visit NASA at www.nasa.gov

Images - NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems



http://nmp.jpl.nasa.gov/ds1/ Deep Space 1

http://ulysses-ops.jpl.esa.int/ Ulysses Mission

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey/ Odyssey Mission

http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/realtime/jtrack/spacecraft.html "Live" Spacecraft Tracker

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/nasatv/index.html NASA TV

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv/ntvweb.html - NASA webtv

http://www.sciforum.com - recommended forum site

http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/ - You too can help! Click Here

http://www.windows.ucar.edu/ - Window on the Universe


http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/galileo/io/ - IO Factsheet
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/galileo/europa/ - Europa Factsheet
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/galileo/europa/ - Callisto Factsheet
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/galileo/news/missionnews.html - Mission Updates