The world is in the grip of Moon landing nostalgia and celebrating the greatest and hazardous adventure that man has embarked on. I have been following the TV specials of documentaries and I have been thinking about my appreciation of all things Apollo. As a lifelong space geek I have decided to talk about my love of space exploration.
NASA is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 with some public events across America and it’s operations. I decided to find my own way to celebrate with a shift at the Science Museum in London where I am a volunteer. I got into the spirit of the museum’s special programme called Summer of Science where we had several events celebrating the Moon landing and Apollo 11. The Space Gallery was very busy and it was delightful to see all these excited people come to admire our collection of space relics.
The legacy of Apollo 11 continues to capture the imagination of the world. I got the warm feeling of a fire in my imagination looking for adventures that I could find in space exploration. It was the spark that I needed to fill my life and along I discovered many wonders. I used to practice science as a kid with a telescope studying the night sky and obsessively read encyclopaedias. All those stories of uncovering information about the Moon and the planets opened by explorers are awe inspiring and thrilling.
Of all the science that I have been interested in the Apollo programme there are two major fields that have appealed to me: engineering and geology. Growing up as a space fan I used to collect construction toys and build Lego and Airfix kits mostly of spaceships. Another of my interests were Earth sciences and I would go on holidays making curious observations of the layers of sand and rocks on the beaches and the shape of the seafront cliffs and breakwaters. I was a scientist in the making and I carried it into my future career and as a blogger.
This moment as we speak NASA is in the age of a new advancement in space exploration. We as a planet are going back to the Moon and then onto Mars and beyond. But this time the conquest of space is a more international affair combining government funds with private industry. It is an exciting time to be a science geek and even more impressive to be a science fiction fan.
As well as the real live science there is also the science fantasy genre in the media. Back in the glory days of the Apollo 11 sci-fi was a dominate and powerful genre on TV and the big screen. There are very useful and valuable to inspiring people into science because the creatives behind the show looked at life and imagine the world that we were building towards prosperity. I was inspired by Thunderbirds to consider going into engineering and wondered if I ever could build this fantastic world that was depicted in the show.
They also reflected visions of the future in social and political ideas where woman, black and disabled people would be in higher positions of power and liberty as politicians and fighter pilots. I reckon I could inspire a future generation of explorers with my own ambition for being a space traveller.
In this space industry that is going on at the moment the structure is undergoing a radical transformation. In the Apollo era space travel was carried out by government funded organisations that were all about promoting scientific research, economic development and national pride. The flaw in this structure explains why we stopped going to the Moon. Because it’s government funded it needs taxpaying people to be in their favour for space missions. At the time there was economic stagnation, inflation and an unpopular war with Vietnam and people wanted it to finish even if it meant cancelling Apollo or any other manned space mission altogether. This led to NASA having to scale down it’s activities.
But now space travel is done differently these days. In the 50 years since Apollo 11 entrepreneurs have been looking and developing clever ways to exploit space technology and find ways to make money from it so they fund it as a capitalist venture instead of a government project. Satellite broadcasting, citizen science projects, university research, corporate sponsorship, etc. All these have shown that there is money in space and it can be done in a very cost effective way that even NASA couldn’t conceive. So to that end NASA is developing it’s new Moon programme called Artemis using public to finance it and is outsourcing the Earth orbital science work to the private sector for companies like SpaceX and Boeing.
I am all in favour of this strategy because it means that NASA will have more money freed up for it’s big goals to the outer planets. For too long they have been focusing on Earth science and they need to get a strong direction for a powerful and vibrant America. This will allow ordinary people like me to get in on a space science market that can give me a number of opportunities for my own science career.
What I would like to do is to fly on a space mission whereby I use myself as a guinea pig for the effects of spaceflight on the neurodivergent traveller. My autistic brain is known for generating wild sensory stimulations and weird behaviour patterns. British astronaut Tim Peake has sparked a massive interest in science and technology with his space adventure. He managed to get into space as a British astronaut in 2009 when the UK started to subscribe to the European Space Agency’s astronaut corps. I however want to go as a private citizen on a citizen science project on a SpaceX rocket to the ISS. I would probably have to create a proper mission objective proposal for this so I’ll save that for a future post.