Astronomers of the Future Club - April 2019 Meeting Report by Duncan Lunan
by Duncan Lunan - 10:37 on 05 May 2019
Astronomers of the Future Club - April 2019 Meeting Report
by Duncan Lunan
Photo Credit: Linda Lunan 2019
At the meeting of the Astronomers of the Future Club in Troon on Thursday April 25th, the speaker was science communicator Laura Thomas on “The Moon: our next step in the journey to Mars”. Laura began with science fiction, citing Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Prelude to Space (1951), which correctly guessed the dates of the first Moon probes and man in space, but said they would be done by the USA rather than Russia. She mentioned Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, but also John Wyndham, whose story collection The Outward Urge portrayed the exploration of the Solar System through the eyes of a family named Troon! Showing the Apollo 17 photograph of the Full Earth, the first of its kind, she emphasised the new perspective which the astronauts gained, and the continuing drive of human curiosity, to find out what’s out there.
Highlights of the first phase, the space race, included Sputnik I, Laika, Yuri Gagarin, Sergei Korolev Valentina Tereshkova, John F. Kennedy, and Apollo 11 – all of it halted due to politics. Every US President says they’ll put people back on the Moon in five years, but meanwhile the Russians have kept going with the same Soyuz booster throughout, during the years of the Salyut and Mir space stations, and they and the European Space Agency press on with the necessary medical research on the International Space Station. No major breakthroughs with widespread applications have come out of it, because the sample population of astronauts is still small, but there have been many spinoffs in medicine and other areas, and together the spacefaring nations are building the experience needed not just to go back to the Moon, but to mount much longer expeditions to Mars, “one of the few other places in the Solar System we can walk on”. The medical issues of long flights, especially the hazards of solar and galactic radiation, are becoming better understood, and with that comes the realisation that the Apollo-era protocols are no longer adequate for safety. Before we try for Mars, the Moon is the place to find out what we still need to know.
The next meeting of the Astronomers of the Future Club will be on Thursday May 30th, from 19:15 to 21:00 hrs at the RSAS Barassie Works Club, 4 Shore Road, Troon, KA10 6AG. The speaker will be John Pressley of the Coats Observatory, Paisley, on “The New Horizons Mission”, which passed Jupiter in 2007, Pluto in 2015, and the Kuiper Belt asteroid Ultima Thule, the most distant object visited so far, in January 2019. For more details contact Alan Martin (Chairman of AOTF Club) on: 07947 331 632, or see the AOTF Club web page (http://www.actascio.org/aotfclub.asp).
Duncan Lunan’s recent books are available from the publishers, through bookshops or on Amazon. Details are on Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com.