Posts Tagged ‘Rockets’

India Planning Crewed Space Mission for 2024

December 29, 2022

I found this fascinating snippet on the community page of the Interesting Engineering channel on YouTube. Apparently India is planning to launch is first crewed space mission, Gaganyaan, in 2024.

The piece states

‘India’s Minister for Science and Technology told the Parliament last week that India’s first human space flight mission has been scheduled for the last quarter of 2024. Dubbed Gaganyaan, the project aims to demonstrate human spaceflight capacity by launching a three-member crew to an orbit of nearly 250 miles for three days. India’s space program is still in its early stages but has been making global headlines in recent years after ISRO’s launch vehicle launched a record-breaking 104 satellites in one go a few years ago. More recently, a private space tech company test-fired the world’s first 3D-printed rocket engine, which has a turnaround of just four days.’

See: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEuiOszNd6msGgqsD0f9YAQ/community?lb=Ugkx50qKuCa8oewPJKBstHZR5bOOfNhDlI5i

This is obvious great news for India and human spaceflight, and shows just how far India has progressed as a modern, industrial and technological power.

Sketch of Legendary Astronomy Author and Presenter Patrick Moore

December 3, 2022

Moore was for many years the face of astronomy on television in the UK, thanks to him presenting The Sky at Night from the 1950s almost to his death. He was known as much for his eccentric appearance as his subject, so there were plenty of jokes about him wearing the same rumpled suit down the decades. He was sent up on programmes from The Two Ronnies to Dead Ringers, who spoofed him as ‘Old Moore’, a fairground fortune teller. But he remained dedicated to his subject, publishing a plethora of popular books on the subject. This included a series of Sky at Night books, one of which I found in the school library when I was a lad, as well as editing the annual Yearbooks of Astronomy. He also collaborated with the amazing British space and science fiction artist David A. Hardy on books such as The Challenge of the Stars. He also wrote at least two books on Mars. I found one in the central library in Bristol in the 1980s. A decade later, during the excitement about the series of probes NASA and other countries were sending to the Red Planet, he published Patrick Moore on Mars. Its title invites all manner of jokes along the lines of ‘best place for him.’ He also wrote a series of children’s science fiction books about a boy space explorer, Scott Summers. These were hard SF based on the science of the time and what was expected to develop later. They’re now obviously very dated. In one of these, Wanderer in Space, Summers flew to intercept an antimatter asteroid that was threatening Earth aboard an ion driven rocket, clearly anticipating developments in such propulsion that haven’t materialised. Ion drives exist, but they aren’t being used for manned space missions. Another of these was about a human colony on Mars, living in a glass dome. This ends with the colonists looking forward to one day emerging and living free on its surface. This one has been superseded by Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy of books about the settlement and terraforming of Mars. As well as these books, he also contributed to a string of popular science and astronomy magazines like Astronomy Now, New Voyager and Focus.

I think he was one of those scientists, with Arthur C. Clarke, who worked on radar during the War but I’m not sure. He never had a formal qualification in astronomy but was always strictly amateur. He was, however, granted an amateur doctorate by one of the universities. I’m sure, however, that at the level he was active in astronomy he would have probably easily passed a university degree in the subject. His maps of the Moon were so good that they were used by NASA in selecting landing sites for the Apollo missions. He never married because his sweetheart was killed during the War in an air raid. In his personal politics he was extremely right-wing, founding the One Country party, which was later merged with another small, extreme right-wing group. I can also remember him appearing on one of the chat shows and remarking that we’d be ‘in the cart’ without Maggie Thatcher. Like many people who have genuinely been through a war, he was deeply critical of it. In one of the chapters in The New Challenge of the Stars, about a possible hostile encounter between an asteroid ark and the inhabitants of an alien planet in whose system it has appeared, Moore makes a sharp comment about man’s folly of war entering a new battleground in space. He was also a staunch opponent of fox hunting. Back in the 90s he was a guest on the comedy programme Room 101, in which guests compete to have various useless and irritating objects or people consigned to the room made famous by Orwell’s 1984. In the vast majority cases, this is just light-hearted fun. But Moore was absolutely serious about sending fox hunting there and talked about how he’d written to various authorities to get it banned. Away from astronomy he also taught himself to play the xylophone and composed numerous pieces for the instrument. One of these was published in a classical music magazine. This did not translate into a career in music, however. He got very annoyed when his planned concert at the Hippodrome was cancelled due to lack of interest.

As well as serious, professional and amateur astronomers Moore talked to during his long career, he also met and talked to various eccentrics, including UFO contactees. One of those he interviewed on the Sky at Night was a man who believed he was in contact with peaceful aliens, and could speak four of their languages, including Venusian and Plutonian. This gentleman demonstrated it by saying the greeting, ‘Hello, space brothers’, in one of them. And although Moore persistently denied it, it seems he was one of the hands behind a hoax book by ‘Cedric Allingham’ about how he encountered an alien spacecraft and its inhabitants during a walking tour of the Scottish Highlands. This was during the first wave of UFO encounters in the late 40s and 50s. When people wrote to the publisher hoping to contact Allingham, he could not be traced. One excuse was that he was off walking in Switzerland. Computer analysis of the text reveals that it was probably written by Moore and revised by someone else in order to disguise his authorship. Moore remained very willing to meet ordinary members of the public and talk to them about his subject even in his retirement. He publicly gave out the address of his home in Herstmonceux, Sussex and said if people had questions or wanted to talk to him, they could drop in, shrugging off the obvious dangers of theft, burglary and so on.

Moore belonged to an age when popular science broadcasters could be real characters, often with eccentric mannerism. There was Magnus Pike, who was famous for waving his arms around while speaking, and the bearded dynamo of Botanic Man himself, David Bellamy, sent up in impressions by Lenny Henry. Since then, popular science programmes have been presented by people who are younger and/or a bit more hip. One BBC programme on astronomy a few years ago was presented by Queen guitarist Brian May, who had studied astrophysics at university before getting caught up in his career as an awesome global rock star. May had just handed in his astrophysics thesis after decades of touring the world with Mercury, Deacon et al. His co-presenter was the comedian Dara O’Brien, who had tried to study maths at university but had dropped out because of its difficulty. The Sky at Night is now presented by about three different hosts, including Black woman Maggie Aderin-Pocock. And I think the face of astronomy and cosmology now is probably Brian Cox after all his series on the subject. But for all this, I prefer the science presenters of a previous generation with all their quirks and foibles. These people were enthusiastic about their subject and were able to communicate their enthusiasm without trying to be too slick to connect with a mass audience. And they succeeded.

The 1984 Yearbook of Astronomy and What’s New in Space, just two of the books edited and written by Moore.

Sketch of Maths and Science Children’s TV Presenter, Johnny Ball

December 2, 2022

After all the serious stuff, here’s another one of my sketches of a favourite TV presenter from way back in the past. This time it’s of Johnny Ball, the presenter of the maths and science shows Think Of A Number and Think Again in the ’70s and 80s. I think Ball started off as a presenter on Play Away before being given his own programmes. I’d always assumed until recently that he was a maths graduate, given the programmes’ subject matter. Apparently, he wasn’t. He was just a self-taught enthusiast. And he was brilliant at conveying that enthusiasm to others. Each episode of Think Of A Number explored a different topic, such as light, or flight. During the show, Ball explained the maths and science concepts with jokes, sketches, tricks and practical demonstrations. And if you wanted to know how a trick was done, all you had to do was send them an SAE and they’d tell you. I started watching it in the hope that it would help to improve my maths, which at the time was really poor. It didn’t, but the show was so amazing that I kept watching. It introduced maths concepts like the Fibonacci series, while spatial dimensions were illustrated using the mind-bending art of Max Escher. The show was performed in front of a live audience of children, whom Ball would often get to assist him in his tricks and demonstrations. Think Again was a similar series but may have been aimed at slightly older children. It still contained jokes, sketches and humour among the series stuff. I don’t know if the series are on DVD, but they’re certainly on YouTube. I watched the edition on flight a little while ago. At one point Ball talks about model flying machines, including ornithopters. These work by flapping their wings like birds. He releases a number of model planes, including an ornithopter and watches in wonder as it flaps across the studio. I was also a great fan of Think Again’s music and titles. This featured various inventions appearing and transforming into each other, beginning with a glowing nylon line drawing Ball himself, and including a Greek temple and other items, such as a spark plug transforming into a rocket. It’s by Francis Monkman, and is called ‘The Achivements of Man’. I’ve seen claims that the composer plagiarised a piece by another musician. I don’t know, but the two do sound similar. But in my view, the Think Again music is slightly better. The series also produced at least one annual, in which Ball did writing what his series did in physical performance. Naturally, it was full of jokes and pithy aphorisms. On the importance of gold, Ball coined the following piece of immortal wisdom, ‘Remember the Golden Rule: he who has all the gold, rules’. The annual starts out by showing how important numbers and maths are by imagining what it would be like if we didn’t have them. We’d have to report inflation in terms like ‘Today the cost of living rose a little bit, and the pound fell a little bit’. There were also jokes about what humans would look like to Martians. They might believe that our hair grew inside our bodies and was so long that it poked out the top of our heads. It’s childish humour, which is what is needed if you want to appeal to children.

The Thinks series ended decades ago, but Ball is still going. He has his own site on the interwebs somewhere, where he talks about maths and science. And a few years ago, I came across a book he’d written of maths puzzles. He also appeared on another programme a few months ago talking about his early life in Frenchay in Bristol.

From all this it’s very clear that he’s still got a cult following. And he deserved it. I wish there were more people like him able to communicate and spread an interest in maths and science, even to people who aren’t mathematical.

Ball’s blurb on the back cover, which also has the portrait of him I used as the basis for my drawing, runs

‘I have written this book to help you enjoy numbers, because it seems to me that’s what numbers were made for. Inside you will find jokes, puzzles and things to make and do with numbers, and any number of pictures to go with my words. There’s plenty of information about numbers, but it is never too serious because I think numbers are fun.

So now you can read about

The first people to ‘Think of a Number!”

Your body: how it measures up.

Stored energy: elastic to ballistics

From living in trees to relying on wood

Saving money and golden rules

Exploring our wet and watery world

Telling the time throughout time.

Lots of you have written to say how much you enjoy the Think of a Number television series. I hope you enjoy the book too.’ I added the pocket calculator to the sketch because it’s on the book’s cover, and because that at the time calculators were new and extremely exciting.

Here’s the theme tune for Think of a Number, which I found on Louish Waltz’s channel on YouTube. According to a comment left by John Wilks, its title is ‘Weeny Bopper’ and it was composed by Brian Bennett.

Here’s the Think Again titles and theme, from TV68’s channel on YouTube.

And here’s a video from the Beeb’s channel on YouTube from the series Bang Goes the Theory, in which Ball uses the capture/recapture technique biologists use to estimate the size of animal populations from a numbered sample to estimate the number of black cabs in London.

Fabio Pacucci on the Science of Space Elevators

December 11, 2021

This short video comes from the TedEd channel on YouTube, presumably connected to the TED talks in which leading intellectuals and academics explain their ideas. In this case, its about space elevators. These are long cables that would carry materials and passengers up to Earth orbit. The idea was first proposed by Russian space pioneer, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, in 1895, after the deaf school teacher saw the tallest building in the world at the time. If one could be built, it would massively reduce the costs of transporting people and material to orbit. These would be taken aloft in special capsules called ‘Climbers’, which would have to be shielded against radiation to protect human passengers. At the moment, it costs SpaceX $7,600 per kilo. It’s estimated that space elevators, their immense power needs supplied either by solar energy or nuclear power, could reduce this by 95 per cent. The problem is that that at the moment there is no material strong enough to support such a building. It has been suggested that carbon monofilaments and nanotubes could provide the solution, but only tiny amounts of these have been manufactured at the moment. There is also the problem that the gravitational stresses and hence the thickness of the cable would vary with height. One solution to this problem would be to extend the cable to counterweight, either a satellite or captured asteroid in geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the Earth. The problem of keeping the tether rigid would be solved by using centrifugal force from the Earth’s spin. The station back on Terra would be best situated at the equator, and possibly a ship at sea. This would allow it mobility to avoid storms and terrible weather. It is immensely difficult to build such an elevator on Earth, but they could be built on the Moon and Mars using current technology and materials. But they’d be far more of an advantage built here on Earth. Another problem is that if the cable was cut, the effects as it fell to Earth would be catastrophic. Despite the difficulties of construction, there are companies in China and Japan planning to build them by 2050.

The idea of the space elevator has been around for some time. Arthur C. Clarke thought for a while that he had invented the idea in his book about the building of such a tower in his adopted home of Sri Lanka in his 1970s novel, The Fountains of Paradise. This lasted until he looked the idea up in the scientific literature, and found it went all the back to the Russians. It would truly be a giant leap in space exploitation and colonisation if we could build a space elevator, but I think building one by 2050 is extremely optimistic. Way back in the 1990s or the early part of this century I remember an American firm announcing they were going to develop the idea. Unfortunately one of the problems at the time is that, according to the techniques being proposed, the station back on Earth would have to be anchored by an entire mountain range. So, not really possible and that was the end anyone heard of the idea.

It’s great that research into space elevators is continuing, but I think it will be a long time before they become reality, whether built by Americans, Chinese, Japanese or whoever.

Spinlaunch Plans on Throwing Satellites into Orbit

December 6, 2021

This video from the YouTube channel Interesting Engineering describes the plans for a very remarkable satellite launch system developed by Spinlaunch, a company I really don’t know anything about. It seems from this video that they’ve built a 157 metre vertically inclined centrifuge as a precursor for one they hope to build, which will be three times larger and used as a satellite launch system. Instead of sending satellites conventionally into space with rockets, the Spinlaunch system will throw them into space instead. The full size system will also use rockets, although they will only fire at an altitude of 61 km above the Earth to place 200 kilo satellites in orbit. The video looks forward to the new system being more sustainable and ecologically friendly than conventional launch systems.

It’s an interesting concept, and the idea of throwing vessels into space I think goes right back to Robert Goddard, the founder of American rocketry. From childhood Goddard wanted to send people to Mars, hence his determination to develop the technology to get people into space. Before settling on rockets, Goddard apparently thought about devices to throw ships into space. And there are indeed a number of problems with using rockets as launch systems. Space and Futurism YouTuber Isaac Arthur, in his video about spaceports, points out that currently launch sites have to be sited well away from any cities because of the sheer noise and power of the rockets. It’s possible that the Spinlaunch system may be able to solve this problem if such centrifuges are quieter than rocket engines. Glancing down the internet entries for similar videos, it seems that not everyone is impressed with the company’s claims. Atheist science vlogger and anti-feminist Thunderfoot has put up a video which suggests that he’s busted their claims. Other space vloggers, like Scott Manley, seem much more impressed with them, and the blurb for the video states that it’s been successfully tested. I honestly don’t know if the idea will work in practice, but it’ll be interesting to see if it ever takes off (pun intended).

Mark Felton Demolishes the Claims for Die Glocke, Hitler’s Anti-Gravity Time/Space Machine

June 21, 2021

Yesterday I posted up a piece by the military historian, Dr Mark Felton, considering the evidence for Nazi flying discs. Felton’s an expert on World War II and the military technology of that time. He came to the conclusion that if the Nazis were experimenting with flying discs, then they were almost certainly failures given the spectacular failures of later, post-War experimental disc-shaped aircraft like the Avrocar. In this video he casts a similarly bleak, withering gaze over claims that the Nazis were working on a secret antigravity craft, called Die Glocke, or ‘the Bell’ because of its resemblance to the musical instrument installed in church towers. Not only is it claimed that the Glocke used antigravity, but it was also apparently a time/space machine. I thought immediately of Dr Who’s TARDIS. Did the Nazis really possess such a device, or have the people who are pushing this watched too many episodes of Dr Who, Time Tunnel and so on?

Felton begins in his usual dry manner. ‘Did’, he asks, ‘the Nazis possess antigravity? Could they flip between dimensions? And did Adolf Hitler escape to the Moon using such a craft? No, I haven’t been self-medicating,’, he says, and goes on to explain he’s only considering the claims made in ‘certain documentaries’. He wants to know if they contain any truth or are just ‘bovine excrement’. I think after watching this the answer lies far more on the side of bovine excrement, but I’ve never been persuaded by the Nazi saucer myth. But Felton states that the Americans and their Allies were astounded by how advanced German aerospace engineering was. The Nazi regime produced a number of highly advanced air- and spacecraft, like the Messerschmitt 262 jet plane, the Bachem Natter rocket interceptor, the V1 Flying Bomb, the V2 rocket. It was a secretive regime, operating from underground bases using slave labour, and so it was ideal for distortion of historical truth. Much of that distorted history was created by the Nazis themselves, and by their successors since then.

The video states that the Glocke entered public consciousness in a book published in 2000. This, followed by others, claimed that the project was under the control of Hans Kammler, the head of the V2 project. Kammler was the stereotypical Nazi leader, straight out of a comic book. He disappeared at the end of the War and was never seen again. It was supposedly powered by a highly volatile substance, red mercury. But Felton eschews discussing how it worked because it’s all theoretical. He just gives a physical description of the putative machine, stating it was 12-14 feet tall, shaped like a Bell, and had a swastika on its side, just so’s people knew where it came from. Is there any documentary evidence for this? No. The only evidence comes from an interview between an author and a Polish intelligence officer, who claimed access to a dossier produced by the SS personnel working on the project. Various names have been suggested for the scientists and officers in charge. One of them is Werner Heisenberg, due to a close similarity between his name and one of the scientists supposedly involved. Heisenberg was the German physicist in charge of the Nazis’ atomic programme. He produced a nuclear reactor, which partially worked, and an atomic bomb which didn’t. Mercifully. But everything is known about what he did during the War, and he was captured and thoroughly interrogated by the Americans afterwards. He didn’t mention the Glocke. Which in my view means that he very definitely wasn’t involved.

The video goes back further, stating that claims of the Glocke actually go back even further, to 1960 and the publication of the French author’s Bergier and Pauwels’ Le Matin des Magiciens, translated into English in 1963 as The Morning of the Magicians. This made a series of claims about the Nazis, including UFOs and occultism, that were roughly based on fact. The Horten brothers had designed flying wing aircraft, which resemble UFOs. After the War their plane ended up in America. Felton says that it clearly influenced later American planes, like the Stealth aircraft. He suggests the Horten flying wing plane contributed to the flying saucer craze of the late 1940s. It has been suggested that what Kenneth Arnold saw in his 1947 flight over the Rockies, which produced the term ‘flying saucer’, was in fact the Hortens flying wings being secretly flown. As for Nazi occultism, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, was an occultist. He intended Wewelsburg castle to be a pseudo-pagan temple, but claims of Nazi involvement in the occult have been greatly exaggerated. Indeed they have. Nicholas Goodricke-Clarke, in his book on Nazi paganism, states that Hitler drew on the bizarre evolutionary ideas of the neo-Pagan cults in Germany and Vienna, like the Ariosophists, whose ideas really were bizarre and quite barking. He also had some contact with the Thule society. However, the pagan sects were banned during the Third Reich because Adolf was afraid they’d divide Germans. He concludes that real Nazi paganism was slight, except in the case of Himmler and the SS, who really did believe in it and wanted his vile organisation to be a new pagan order. Pauwels and Bergier’s book fed into the nascent 60s counterculture and then into the later New Age. Their book is notorious, and has certainly been credited as a source for much New Age speculation and pseudo-history by magazines like the Fortean Times. I think there was a split between the two authors. Bergier was an anti-Nazi, who had spent time in a concentration camp. I think he may even have been Jewish. Pauwels, on the other hand, gravitated towards the far right.

Villainous Nazi super-scientists also became part of SF pulp fiction of the 1960s and 70s. The Nazis were supposed to have discovered the secrets of space and even time travel. One of the books flashed up in this part of the video is Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream. This came out in the 1980s, and pondered what would have happened if Hitler had emigrated to America and become a pulp SF writer. The West German authorities weren’t impressed, and it was banned in Germany under the Basic Law outlawing the glorification of the Nazis. I found it in a secondhand bookshop in Cheltenham. It proudly boasted that it contained the SF/Fantasy novel Hitler would have written. Well, Hitler didn’t go to America, and never wrote any SF or Fantasy novels, and the book actually looked really dull. So I saved my money and didn’t buy it. This type of literature flourished because the Americans had been so impressed by genuine German scientific achievements. And the post-War atomic age and UFO craze allowed imaginations to run riot. So Nazi scientists also turned up as the villains in various SF film and TV shows. One prize example of that is the X-Files, in which the secret programme to breed human-alien hybrids at the heart of the UFO mystery is done by Nazi biologists, who came to America under Operation Paperclip.

The video then asks whether the Nazis really did experiment with antigravity. Well, they experimented with everything else, including occultism. NASA was also experimenting with antigravity from the 1990s onwards, as were the Russians and major aerospace corporations like Boeing in the US and BAe Systems in Britain. The Russians even published a scientific paper on it. But despite their deep pockets, these were all failures. And it seems that Operation Paperclip, which successfully collected German rocket scientists, chemical and biological weapons experts, and aerospace engineers, somehow failed to get their antigravity experts. We don’t have the names of any of the scientists and engineers, where they worked or even any credible documents about them. If the Glocke really had been built and its scientists captured by the US and USSR, why were the Americans and Russians trying to build it all from scratch. And if Hitler did have antigravity and UFOs, then how the hell did he lose the War?

Some sources claim that the project was also run by SS Gruppenfuhrers Emil Mazuw and Jakob Sporrenberg, both deeply noxious individuals. Mazuw was the governor of Pomerania, one of the former German territories later given to Poland after the War along with Silesia. He was the head of the SS and high police in Pomerania, and was deeply involved in the Holocaust. Before the War he was a factory worker. What use would he have been to a secret scientific project at the cutting edge of physics? Ditto Sporrenberg. He was also deeply involved in the Shoah, and had zero scientific or engineering background.

The video then considers the 1965 Kecksburg UFO crash, which is also cited as the evidence for the Glocke’s existence. That year a bright fireball was seen in the sky over six US states and Ontario in Canada, coming down in Kecksburg, Pennsylvania. The US army was mobilised, cordoning the area off and taking something away. In 2005 NASA revealed that the object was a capture Russian satellite, the Cosmos 96, which had re-entered the atmosphere and broken up. But this has provided much material for certain TV documentaries from the 90s to the present.

Felton concludes that if the Glocke ever existed, it was probably part of the German nuclear programme, and not a time machine. That’s if it ever existed at all. Echoing the X-Files‘ Fox Mulder, he finishes with ‘The truth is out there, as they say’.

Well, yes, the truth is out there. But as Scully was also fond of reminding Mulder, so are lies. And the Glocke is almost certainly one of these. The UFO world is riddled with fantasists and liars, some of whom are government agents apparently on a mission to spread misinformation. I think this is to destabilise the UFO milieu and stop them getting too close to real secret military aircraft. There’s the case of a civilian contractor working near one of the US secret bases, who became convinced that it really did contain a captured alien, with whom he was communicating over the internet. It seems he was being deliberately led up the garden path and pushed into madness by two air intelligence operatives, who first fed him information apparently supporting his views, and then told him it was all rubbish. It’s a technique known in the intelligence world as ‘the double-bubble’. They lead the target first one way, pretending to be whistleblowers, and then tell them it’s all lies, leaving them confused and not knowing what to believe.

Some UFO sightings are almost certainly of secret spy aircraft, including balloons. The Russians also encouraged belief in UFOs as a spurious explanation for secret space launches from Kapustin Yar, their main rocket complex. I also think that some of the stories about crashed UFOs, secret Nazi research were disinformation spread by the superpowers to put the others off the scent. The extraterrestrial hypothesis was only one explanation for UFOs after the War. It’s been suggested that when Major Quintillana said that the US had captured a flying disc at Roswell, he was deliberately trying to mislead the Russians and hide what had really come down, which was a Project Mogul spy balloon. Friends of mine are convinced that the Russians were similarly running a disinformation campaign about Soviet official psychical research in the 1970s. A number of western journos were given tours of secret Russian bases where experiments were being conducted into telepathy, telekinesis and so on. Some of the more excitable American generals were talking about a ‘psychic cold War’. One of the most bonkers stories I’ve heard was that the Russians were supposed to have developed hyperspace nuclear missiles. Instead of passing through normal space, these rockets were to be teleported to their destinations by trained psychics, rather like the mutated navigators folding space in the David Lynch film of Frank Herbert’s Dune. The hacks who followed up these stories found the secret bases were actually bog-standard factories. Workers told them that their places of work had been briefly taken over by the government, new rooms constructed, and a lot of strange equipment put in which was subsequently taken out. It looks very much like the Russian government believed it psychic research was all nonsense – hardly surprising for an officially atheist regime committed to philosophical materialism. The whole point of the exercise was to convince the Americans it worked, so they’d waste their money going down a technological and military blind alley. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Polish intelligence agent at the heart of this claim had been engaged on a similar project. Or perhaps he was just lying on his own time.

As for fantasists and yarn-spinners, well, I believe the Montauk project is one prize example. This was the subject of a series of books published in the 90s by two Americans. They claimed there had also been a secret time travel project based on, you guessed it, Nazi research. I think it also involved evil aliens and whatever else was going round the UFO world at the time. Kevin McClure and the Magonians were highly suspicious of it, not just because it was bullsh*t, but because it also seemed to glorify the Third Reich. They suspected the authors of writing far-right propaganda.

The Montauk project also appears to be partly based on the Philadelphia Experiment. This was the claim that during the War the Americans had conducted an experiment to render warships invisible to radar using magnetism, following Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. This had gone seriously wrong. The crew of the ship under test suffered terrible effects. Some burst into flame, another walked straight through a bulkhead before the ship itself vanished. The story was later turned into a time travel movie of the same name in the 1980s.

Was it true? Naaah. Although I’ve seen it in various UFO books, the claims seem to come down to one man. I’ve forgotten his name, but someone who knew him wrote in about him to the Fortean Times. The man had been his uncle, an alcoholic and spinner of tall tales, who had precious little, if anything, to do with science or the military.

It looks to me very much like the Glocke antigravity time/space machine is yet another of this myths or pieces of disinformation. I don’t think it was ever built, and the Polish intelligence officer who claimed it was, was a liar. As for the authors of the subsequent books and articles claiming its all true, no doubt many of them are sincerely genuine. But it doesn’t mean they’re right.

And some of the people pushing the Nazi saucer myths are real Nazis, seeking glorify the regime through sensational claims of secret technology and bases in the Canadian far north, Antarctica and the Moon. They do it to enthral people with the glamour of Nazi technology to divert attention away from the real horrors it perpetrated.

I’m sure most of the people, who believe in Nazi UFOs are decent people, who are genuinely appalled at the atrocities committed by Hitler and his minions. But there are Nazis out there trying to manipulate people, and that’s the danger.

Nazism and Fascism need to be fought and any claims of Nazi superscience or occult power critically examined, even if it seems to be harmless nonsense.

Mark Felton Examines Nazi Flying Saucer Research

June 20, 2021

This might interest some of the readers of this blog, who are interested in the rumours that during World War II the Nazis were engaged in developing Flying Saucers. Mark Felton, according to the biographical note to his channel’s videos, is an historian and the author of 22 books as well as numerous appearances on various TV shows. His channel, Mark Felton Productions, puts up videos about the Second World War and particularly its military technology. Three days ago on the 17th June 2021, he put up this video entitled ‘Hitler’s Flying Saucers – Fact or Fantasy?’

The video begins with the statement that German aeronautical engineering during the War was excellent and in advance of the Allies, as shown by the Messerschmitt Komet rocket plane and the V2 rocket. But there have also been rumours that they were developing disc-shaped craft. The video shows here a photo of the Sack AS-6, which really does look like a flying disc. The engineer credited with this research is Joseph Andreas Epp, who designed a circular aircraft with helicopter blades mounted on top, inspirited by the Focke-Wulf FW61 helicopter. He created four designs for these disc-shaped craft, all helicopters with adjustable rotor blades, and claimed to have built a 1/10 scale model, which he sent to the Ministry of Aviation in 1941. These designs and the model were examined by staff belonging to General Ernst Udet. The material was then passed on Walter Dornberger, the head of the Peenemunde V2 research base. A facility was supposedly built at Prague airport to develop these novel aircraft and the project placed under the authority of Rudolf Schriever and Jurgen Habermohl, and given assistance from a number of firms and organisations including the Luftwaffe and Skoda. It was run by Albert Speer’s armaments ministry until 1944 when it was absorbed into the V2 under the SS, led by Hans Kammler. One flying disc was supposedly built, dubbed the Flugkreisel, which incorporated some of Epp’s designs amongst other, later innovations. Epp allegedly took a grainy photograph of the disc in flight from Prague airport through vegetation as he was approaching it one day in his capacity as consultant. This was one of four unofficial flights, and the aircraft made its first official flight in January 1945. This is supported by Georg Klein, who was supposedly one of the craft’s designers at Prague, and a sworn statement from a test pilot, Georg Langer, after the end of the War. But Felton cautions that all this must be taken with a pinch of salt.

In addition to Epp, Schriever and Habermohl, there was a third project to develop flying discs carried on at the airport. This was supposedly a joint German-Italian programme under Richard Miethe and the Italian professor Giuseppe Belluzzo. It’s existence is also supported by the testimony of the staff involved, but these could be lying. There are designs for such an aircraft dating from the Second World War as well as a second photo of a disc in flight, but this could have been planted after the War to add verisimilitude.

In addition to the Germans, other countries were also active developing saucer-shaped craft. These included America with the Vought V-173 ‘Flying Pancake’ and the Vought XF5U. The German projects were abandoned 15th April 1945 as the Red Army closed in on Prague. The designs were packed up and taken away and the vehicles themselves taken out of their hangars and burned. Schriever later set himself up as an inventor, also working as a trucker for the occupying Allies to support himself. In 1948 his workshop was burgled and his materials on flying discs were stolen. He claimed he was approached by the western intelligence agencies for material on flying discs, but refused to cooperate. He officially died in 1953, but people who knew him later claimed they had seen him alive in the ’60s. Epp continued working on flying discs, and claimed he had built a flying model in 1946, and continued flying them into the 1950s. He also wrote about Nazi flying discs and appeared on German television talking about them. He claims that he approached the Americans with his ideas, but was rebuffed. He married, and briefly settled in East Germany, returning to West Germany in 1959. He applied for a patent, but this was blocked by the Americans for ten years. This conflicts with what is known about the American interest in Nazi technology, such as Operation Paperclip, the programme that saw the transfer of the V2 scientists and personnel to America to continue their rocket research.

Felton speculates that the Americans were interested in flying disc designs, as the Miethe disc resembles an aircraft designed by the British engineer, John Frost, called ‘Project Y’. The Miethe disc contained an internal, rotating jet engine. It was launched from a ramp. For its undercarriage, it used skids like the Komet rocket plane. ‘Project Y’, which looks rather spade-like, was dubbed ‘the Flying Manta’ and developed by Avro Canada, and it was rumoured that Miethe helped with the project. Frost had previously worked for De Havilland in Britain, developing the swept-wing, tailless De Havilland DH108 Swallow. He migrated to Canada in 1947, where he helped to create the CF-100 jet fighter, joining the Special Project Group set up in Avro Canada in 1952. This was set up to develop a VTOL aircraft which could be used after the destruction of airports in a nuclear war. The result was the VZ-9 Avrocar. This used a single turbo rotor to produce lift and thrust. It had difficulty going any higher than 3 feet off the ground, and the project was cancelled in 1961 when the American Air Force, which had supplied the funding, pulled the plug.

The similarities between these projects and those of the Germans may be coincidental, but they allow Felton to suggest the following conclusions:

  1. If Miethe and the Germans were involved in the Avrocar, then its failure shows that they were unable to make their own aircraft fly.
  2. Even if the Canadian project had no input from the Germans, it still faced some of the same problems. Its failure is therefore odd if the Germans, with less resources and knowledge, had been successful years before.
  3. The existence of the Avrocar indicates that the Americans had not captured a Nazi saucer about the time of the Roswell crash, for the reason that if the Americans had, why was the Avrocar a failure? It also shows that UFOs were not American. Here the video shows a clip of Airforce General Sandford talking about UFOs. He states that they have received 3,000 sightings, the great bulk of which could be adequately explained. These are hoaxes, misidentified aircraft, and meteorological and electrical phenomena. But some sightings were still unexplained and the American air force was still attempting to resolve them. But they were convinced that these sightings showed no pattern or purpose that related to a threat to the US.
  4. But did research into flying discs terminate with the Avrocar? The Groom Lake test facility, dubbed Area 51, was active from 1951 and was the place where a series of high-performance military aircraft, including the U2 spy plane, the Blackbird and the stealth fighter, were developed and tested.

Felton also suggests that Nazi disc research could also be entirely fictional and that Epp and co. were lying. This has been turned into a credible story by documentary film-makers, and that flying discs are really a post-War development. As the Nazis experimented with every other form of aircraft, it is credible that some experiments were made. It is not certain, however, if any of these aircraft were ever built of flown. What is certain is that Hitler never flew to a secret Antarctic base in one.

Felton thanks Panzerfux military kits for the use of the photograph of the Miethe disc, and begins his video with the statement that it ‘isn’t going to be like certain kinds of popular TV documentaries, much in vogue at the moment’. This looks like a swipe at some of the programmes on the History Channel, which has run any number of programmes on UFOs. It also has a TV series in which Dr Allen Hynek and a USAF officer try to get at the truth about flying saucers, while von Braun and his team are experimenting with a real one. The first series of the show is out on video, and looks like an attempt to do something vaguely like the X-Files but for the 21st century.

There has been discussion and debate about the possible existence of Nazi flying saucers since the end of the Second World War, and this reached a peak in the 1990s when W.A. Harbinson published Projekt UFO. This concluded that the Nazis really did have flying saucers and that these were now stationed at a secret Nazi base in Antarctica. The Nazis had also created a race of cyborg pilots, surgically altered to fly them and survive the high speeds and dangerous conditions. Kevin McClure and the peeps over at Magonia did some research into these claims, and concluded that they were rubbish. The evidence for some of them is tenuous and contradictory. For example, Giuseppe Belluzzo is also called ‘Bellonzo’ in some of these accounts. Some of the people pushing these stories were neo-Nazis, and it looks like some of the purpose behind their doing so was to keep alive the myth that the Nazis were super-scientists far in advance of the Allies. I’m extremely doubtful about this. The Germans had excellent scientists and engineers, thanks to the Prussian educational system set up in the 19th century. But their scientists and engineers faced some of the problems of official apathy ours did. Ohain, the genius behind the German jet aircraft, was also repeatedly turned down by the German air force and aviation authorities, just as Frank Whittle, the British jet inventor, was over here. Hitler was also initially convinced that the V2 was going to be a failure due to a recurring dream he had of the machine falling over and exploding. His opposition was only reversed after the Peenemunde team invited him to see the progress they had been making in its development.

And then there’s the very far-fetched story put out in videos like the one in which the Nazis developed real, space-travelling flying saucers from mediumistic messages telepathically received from Aldebaran. In my opinion, this is complete nonsense. I was always sceptical of the idea that the Nazis developed flying discs, but it looks like there may be more evidence for them than I thought.

If they were developed, however, I think they’re far more likely to have been aircraft like the Flying Pancake, Project Y and Avrocar than highly advanced, high performance vehicles or spacecraft.

Trump’s Space Force Breaks International Law

June 28, 2020

Remember when Trump announced a few months ago that he was setting up a space force to protect America from attack from that direction? He was immediately criticised because such a force would break the current international treaties governing the exploration and use of space. Mitchell R. Sharpe discusses these treaties in his book Satellites and Probes: The Development of Unmanned Spaceflight (London: Aldus Books 1970).

Sharpe writes

As the tempo of space exploration increases and more nations become involved through international agreements, it is obvious that problems in international law will ultimately arise. In this field, the UN took an early interest and is now the principal organization for studying and proposing space law. After manned space flight began in 1961, the General Assembly laid down some brief principles of a space code. On December 13, 1963, these were expanded; and an international treaty based upon them was signed in Washington, Moscow, and London on January 27, 1967. In brief, the treaty states that space exploration is available to all nations equally and that there will be no use of space for military purposes. Other international agreement provide that there will be no annexation of other planets by Earth powers and that astronauts are to be returned to their own nations in case they land by accident in other countries.

Pp. 30-1 (my emphasis).

The book notes that international relations in space have been strained, but nevertheless is optimistic about future cooperation between countries in the High Frontier.

The road to harmonious international cooperation in space research and exploration is not a smooth one. It has been strewn with obstacles of mutual suspicion, and distrust through conflicting political ideologies, outright chauvinism, cumbersome coordinating organizations, periodic temperature changes in the Cold War. However, the progression has been steadily forward despite these momentary checks…

As the second decade of the Space Age dawned, Man was beginning to realize the space, in its infinity, precludes all petty approaches to its exploration and eventual exploitation. International cooperation in both seemed an imperative for the ensuing decade, and the signs of a growing effort toward this were encouraging. (p. 31).

By the time of the publication of Michael Freeman’s Space Traveller’s Handbook (London: Hamlyn 1979), international relations had become much colder and the prospects for cooperation much less optimistic. The joint American-Soviet space mission of 1975, which saw astronauts from the two nations link up in orbit and exchange greetings was then four years in the past. The new Cold War that would dominate the global situation until the Gorbachev era and the fall of Communism was just beginning. The Space Traveller’s Handbook is a fictionalized treatment of rocketry and space exploration using the framework of a history book from 2061. The section on space law makes it plain that international legislation concerning space is extremely fragile and expects it to be broken. This is laid out in the section’s final two paragraphs.

International law is no law.

The most unsatisfactory aspect of the whole legal question in space is that the effectiveness of international legislation depends entirely on the good will of nations. Not all nations are signatory to all treaties, some elements of international space law are plainly at odds with the national law of some countries. and in the final analysis a nation can simply ignore the findings of the International Court of Space.

Basically, international law, on Earth as well as in space, is a conflict of law, the confrontation of two nations, each with its own set of internal laws. Legislation must be by treaty, and legal disputes tend to follow diplomatic channels in the first instance. The setting up of the International Court of Space by the ISA was an attempt to regulate disputes, but its only means of enforcing its judgements is to present its recommendations to the ISA. Essentially, the only punishment is sanction, [such as was applied to Rhodesia after UDI]. This is only effective if a sufficient number of nations agree to undertake it. Even criminal cases against individuals must in the end be referred to national courts. (p. 49).

The ISA and the International Court of Space, or at least the latter, are fictitious, and part of the book’s future history. It’s interesting, though, that the book predicted it would be set up ten years ago in 2010. I am not aware that any institution like it actually has.

Trump’s projected space force clearly is in breach of international law, and it seems to bear out Freeman’s prediction that it would eventually prove to be toothless. However, he hasn’t set it up just yet, and it remains to be seen whether it will actually become reality. If it does, I fear it will lead to a disastrous arms race in outer space, a race that may well bring us once again to the brink of nuclear armageddon as the Earth-based arms race did far too many times in the past.

For humanity’s sake, let us follow the vision of the late, great comedian Bill Hicks. Hicks used to end his show by stating that if the world spent what it does on armaments instead on peaceful projects, we could explore and colonize space and feed our world.

No one need starve, and we could go forth in peace forever.

Meanwhile, Trump’s announcement has provided yet more subject matter for the satirists. Netflix is launching a new comedy series, Space Force. Here’s the trailer from YouTube.

I think The Office mentioned in the title credits must be the American version of the show, rather than the British original made infamous by Ricky Gervaise. It stars Steve Carell and Lisa Kudrow, who older readers may remember as Phoebe in the ’90s comedy series, Friends.

 

Personal Hobby Rocket Based on NASA Mercury Capsule

June 27, 2020

A little while ago I put up a piece about a paper I had published several years ago in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (JBIS). This argued that as flying enthusiasts now attempt to recreate the experience of the great pioneering age of aviation by flying hang-gliders and microlight aircraft, so there is an opportunity for developing personal leisure rockets to take space enthusiasts on very short rocket trips in order to recreate some of the experience of real spaceflight. The rockets and the capsules don’t have to be very large – just enough to carry a single person or so to a height of a few thousand feet.

The problem I found when I was going through the equations for just such a vehicle is that the amount of fuel needed would make a rocket that was actually smaller than the capsule for the hobby ‘astronaut’. It would simply be impossible to follow the conventional rocket design in which the capsule stands atop the rocket, as it would simply overbalance. A few years ago I found a couple of videos from the Danish company, Copenhagen Suborbitals, who were also trying to develop their own, private spacecraft. They seemed to be trying to solve the problem by placing the rocket in front of the personnel capsule, like the arrangement of the escape tower on the manned NASA rockets – Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, which preceded the spaceshuttle.

I think the Mercury rocket would actually make a fitting design for such a small hobby rocket. They were the first American rockets which took men into space, after a series of unmanned, automated tests and then using chimpanzees. The capsules were small, designed for only one man, measuring 2 meters in diameter at their widest point, and about 3 meters tall, not counting the escape tower. The rocket that was initially used for them was the Redstone, and it was a Mercury-Redstone combination that took John Glenn in Friendship 7 on his epoch flight into space. This was a suborbital flight from one side of America to the other.

Mercury Restone rocket from The Space Traveller’s Handbook, Michael Freeman (London: Hamlyn 1979) 54.

Obviously, you don’t want a rocket as powerful as a Redstone, as even a suborbital, transcontinental trip would be too far. You’d only need an arrangement like the Mercury capsule and its escape tower. The escape towers on all the NASA manned rockets supported small, solid fuel rocket motors. If there was a problem with launch rocket, they were designed to carry the capsule to safety. Thus they were developed to take crewed capsules on the kind of very short trips of the kind that a crewed hobby rocket may also make.

Mercury capsule from the above book, page 56.

As a hobby rocket would not actually travel beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, it would not need retro-rockets and heat shield. It would still obviously need to carry a parachute, which would also still need to be above the rest of the capsule for the safety and stability of the hobby astronaut. I’m thinking of short trips that go up and straight down, with the capsule landing on its base. From the above illustrations it looks like the escape tower rocket minus its aerodynamic spike was 172 cm long and 43 cm wide. Looked at closely, it also seems that it had three nozzles arranged at equal spaces around its base, angled away from the body of the capsule to provide thrust while maintaining stability.

In addition to the problem of stability, the escape tower arrangement also poses some difficulty in that in order for the parachutes to open, the escape rocket itself must be jettisoned. This complicates the design of capsule. It struck me, however, that this could be solved if the single escape rocket was replaced by three solid rockets 572 cm long at the rear of the capsule, spaced at equal distances around its circumference in order to provide stability as shown in my sketch below.

If the rockets and their exhaust nozzles aren’t able to support the weight of the capsule, perhaps landing legs somewhat like those of the lunar module the Apollo astronauts used to land on the Moon could be added.

I’m not a rocket scientist, just an ordinary person who has read some of the science and physics involved, so don’t take this as solid fact. But I think the three rockets together would provide the same amount of thrust as a single rocket of three times the length of one of them. However, as the three rockets would fire together, the actual burn time would be shorter and so imagine it would ascend with a greater acceleration than a single, larger rocket would. But the speed reached, and thus the height after the rockets stopped firing, should be the same.

I think the design’s practical, though it would obviously have to undergo extremely rigorous tests before any aspiring hobby astronaut got anywhere near it. However, there is already a large hobby rocketry milieu. They largely fire off models rockets, but these can be quite large. One group of enthusiasts, according to the magazine High Power Rocketry, sent up a Minuteman missile one year. And last year an American built his own steam rocket which successfully took him a mile up. The man was an eccentric – he wanted to make the journey as he really believed the world was flat and wanted to see if it was round. But his rocket worked, although he lost his life making a subsequent flight. And if one man wants to make an amateur, hobby rocket flight, there are probably others. This is an idea waiting to be developed by professional aerospace technicians and engineers.

But if successful, it would create a new age of personal rocketry and interest and enthusiasm for real spaceflight, just like those flying hang-gliders and microlights are enthusiastic about conventional aircraft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NASA Film Explaining Their Plan to Return to the Moon

June 25, 2020

Here’s a short film from NASA. Narrated by William Shatner, Star Trek’s original Captain Kirk, it explains that the space agency intends to return to the Moon after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first landed there fifty years ago. This time the agency intends to stay.

It discusses some of the problems that have to be overcome, like isolation, radiation, gravity and the harsh environment of space. To get there, NASA has produced the SLS -Space Launch System – rocket, the most powerful yet developed, to lift heavier payloads into space. The crew will be carried by a new space capsule specially developed for the mission, Orion. The film also states that they’re developing new instrument system for exploring the Moon with their commercial partners.

They want to create fully reusable lunar landers that can land anywhere on the Moon’s surface. The simplest way to enable them to do this is to create an orbiting platform – a space station – around the Moon. This will also contain experiments as well as humans, and has been called ‘Gateway’. Gateway has been designed so that it will move between orbits, and balance between the Earth’s and Moon’s gravity.

It was discovered in 2009 that the Moon contains millions of tons of water ice. This can be extracted and purified for use as drinking water, or separated to provide oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for fuel.

They also state that the Moon is uniquely placed to prepare and propel us to Mars and beyond. The film also declaims that humans are the most fragile part of the mission, but humans are at the heart of it. NASA is going back for all humanity, and this time the Moon isn’t a checkpoint, but a way station for everything that lies beyond. Shatner ends with ‘Our greatest adventure lies ahead of us. We are going.’ This last sentence is repeated as a slogan by the many engineers, technicians, astronauts and mission staff shown in the video. They are shown working on the instruments, rocket engines, launch infrastructure, training aircraft, mission control centre, and the huge swimming pool used to train prospective astronauts in zero G. NASA’s staff and crew are both men and women, and people of all races, Black, White and Asian. One of the ladies is Black, clearly following in the footsteps of the three Afro-American female mathematicians who helped put America’s first men in orbit.

It also includes footage of the first Apollo astronauts walking to their Saturn V rocket and landing on the Moon, with computer simulations of the planned missions, as well as Mars and Jupiter.

From the video, it looks like NASA has returned to its original strategy for reaching the Moon. This was to build a space station between the Earth and Moon at which the powerful rockets used for getting out of Earth’s gravity well would dock. Passengers to the Moon would then be transferred to the landers designed to take them down the Moon. These would be less powerful because of the Moon’s lower gravity.

This was the infrastructure of lunar missions that Wernher von Braun originally intended. It’s the plan shown in Floyd’s journey from Earth to Clavius base on the Moon in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. America, however, needed to beat the Russians to the Moon in the space race for geopolitical reasons, and so chose to go directly to the Moon instead of building the intermediate space station. As a result, after the cuts of the 1970s, America and humanity never returned.

There was talk of a commercial mission to the Moon in the 1990s, using Titan-Centaur rockets assembled into a lunar vessel in orbit. Just as there were also confident predictions that by this year, humanity would have put an astronaut on the Moon. Or perhaps a taikonaut, the Chinese term for it. Stephen Baxter in an article on possible Mars missions in this present century suggested that the first person to walk on the red planet would be a Chinese woman. Who knows? The Chinese are making great strides in their space programme, so I think that’s still a real possibility.

 

Ren Wicks’ painting for NASA of 2019 mission to Mars, from Peter Bond, Reaching For The Stars: The Illustrated History of Manned Spaceflight (London: Cassell 1993).

Fifty years is far too long for us to have stayed away from the Moon. I can remember all the books on space from the 1970s and early ’80s which predicted that by this time there’d be holidays in space, orbital colonies, a base on the Moon and expeditions to Mars and beyond. These haven’t materialised. The last section of Shatner’s voiceover for the video was a piece of oratory designed to evoke JFK’s classic speech, in which he declared America was going to the Moon. ‘We intend, before this decade is out, to put a man on the Moon. We do this, and the other thing, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.’

I wish NASA and all the other space agencies and companies around the world all the very best in realizing the ancient dream of taking people into space. Despite the economic and medical crises caused by the virus, I hope they are successful and in four years’ time put people on the Moon at last. And that this will be just the first in a series of further steps out onto the High Frontier.

As somebody whispered on that fateful day when the Saturn V rocket carrying Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins took off, ‘Godspeed’.