Fly The Flag

Sunday, June 19th, 2016 07:45 pm
tourmaline: (ISS)
So for Tim Peake's landing yesterday, there was no Stargazing Live special as so many of us had hoped. Instead, there was live coverage (mostly the NASA TV feed) on the BBC News channel, which had the usual experts (Libby Jackson from UKSA, Professor Lucie Green from UCL) along with BBC science correspondents who knew what they were talking about, and general studio presenters who didn't. So glad all went so well, there was a BBC guy who was practically interviewing Tim Peake on the Kazakh steppe. Yuri Malenchenko was sitting bolt upright early on like the seasoned space traveller he is, but Tim Kopra looked a bit wobbly for a while but he seemed to be getting his bearings OK eventually.

Having this on the news rather than a dedicated programme meant the news headlines ticker was on screen almost the whole time, so all the stuff about the man who murdered the MP Jo Cox was there. I can't believe what a nightmare that was. I've met a few people through work, my age and younger, and you know immediately they're a future MP for a left-leaning party, and they'll be a very good one, just like Jo Cox.

My friend and I took a little break from the usual work routine on Thursday morning to watch the Aviva Women's Tour go past along the main road near our business park. I had read about this early in the year, and my friend wanted a photo to illustrate a staff newsletter article she was writing about the Cycle To Work scheme. I took my flag and was cheering and yelling as they went past - it was still quite early in the race so they were all in a big bunch. Sadly we didn't get on the TV highlights, they went straight from the start in Atherstone to the part just after us when they went through the University of Warwick campus. But it was so exciting seeing all the build-up, the police motorbikes, the race marshal motorbikes, and the support cars going past, all waving at us, and us waving back. There wasn't many of us along that stretch of road, but there was lots of TV coverage of other stretches of road where there were lots of schoolkids cheering and waving flags. I was only going to watch the highlights once but I'm going to keep them now, as there are lots of sights I recognise, and I'll always remember being out there, even if it was only for a short time.

Stargazing Live

Friday, January 15th, 2016 10:12 pm
tourmaline: (ISS)
It's been Stargazing Live week, and it's been the best one yet. We had an extra show tonight to cover the EVA, which was amazing even though the EVA didn't completely run to plan. I hadn't realised how youthful some of the regular presenters are, I generally assume that they must be older than me because they know so much more than me (generally they're all professors or have doctorates or both). But they had a closeup of Chris Lintott and he looked very youthful, so I Googled him and he's only 35. But to balance this out, John Bishop is older than I thought he was, must be his sports career (he's a former semi-pro football player) keeping him looking younger. He was so fabulous at the astronaut training, and it was great to see Andreas Mogensen on TV too.

I had the EVA on NASA TV on a browser tab at work this afternoon, and took my flag into work and draped on the back of my chair - this is the flag I took to the Olympics, and got ready last year when Tim Peake was part of the backup launch crew and he favourited my tweet of it, so I'd wore it for his launch. I could only follow it briefly, but there were amusing parts - at the start while the Tims were in the airlock, Scott Kelly was looking at something on a laptop while adjusting his trousers, then realised he was on camera and stopped suddenly and smiled at the camera. To be fair, he's done worse in the past :)

But it was so cool to see Tim Peake out on the EVA, and it was great to follow all the news coverage and Twitter coverage, and the comments about him being the first under the British flag to conduct an EVA. I didn't find out about the terminate call until I got home and switched my phone on, and then I had stuff I had to do before I could get my laptop out. The detail of the issue showed it wasn't as critical an issue as when Luca Parmitano got water in his helmet a couple of years ago, but it was the right thing to do to terminate the EVA. Hopefully we'll get to see more of Tim's mission, there's still five months to go.

Brit In Space

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015 09:23 pm
tourmaline: (ISS)
It's been a long day, and I've spent most of it sitting on the sofa in front of my laptop. I took the day off so I could follow today's Soyuz launch unencumbered by work. It's been amazing, it was such a perfect-looking launch, then a bit of unwanted drama with the docking having to be done manually, and then a long wait for the hatches to open. Luckily the live BBC coverage overstayed its time so we could see the crew enter the ISS.

There were two Stargazing Live special programmes on TV today, covering the launch and the hatch entry. Chris Hadfield was on both programmes alongside Dara O Briain and Professor Brian Cox, and Helen Sharman was also on the evening programme. Additionally, I listened to Ron Garan on a BBC Radio Five Live programme last night, and on Sunday I heard a BBC World Service documentary about the history of space stations which was narrated by Samantha Cristoforetti. There have been glimpses of other astronauts on the BBC TV coverage - biggest name was Alexei Leonov was on the morning programme with Helen Sharman, there was a clip of Tim Peake's training with his fellow ESA astronauts, and I saw Mike Fossum with the crew's families in Baikonur on the evening programme. The Stargazing Live specials came from the Science Museum which was full of schoolchildren, all waving flags and being fantastically noisy - counting down with the launch countdown, and cheering loudly when Tim Peake waved and gave a thumbs-up during ascent.

As always, I was waiting for this sight:

Expedition 46 Crew 15Dec15

It was very busy on Twitter too, lots of debate over whether Tim is the first British astronaut - he isn't, he's the first British person to go into space as a member of the astronaut corps attached to Britain. Helen Sharman, the first Brit in space, went as part of a privately-funded venture, and in the intervening time there have been three NASA astronauts with joint US/UK citizenship, and two spaceflight participants with joint UK/other nation citizenship. It's a great question to ask on QI.

This crew is scheduled to be onboard until June next year, so there will be lots of opportunity to follow along. It will be so cool.