Down the Pub with an Astronaut enjoying a Pint of Science
Often some of the best stories told are down the pub, or in some cases conceived. Did you know that Tolkien discussed ideas for his stories including the Hobbit Lord of the Rings down the pub with his mates?
One of the greatest real life stories of all time happened just 50 years ago. I wasn’t even born when the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon, and the last mission to the moon was the year I was born. Like many of you, my first interest in space was from watching StarWars, I still remember standing in line with my Dad, as small boy, at the local screening in my home town in 1977. At the end of the movie I wanted to go into space, build my own Lightsabre and get my very own pet robot.
A Pint of Science is a non-profit organisation that brings world leading scientists to your local pub. You can sit down and enjoy a pint, or two… and listen to inspiring talks around the latest research and findings in the world of science.
In celebration of the Apollo moon landings, A Pint of Science came to my home town, hosted at the University of Reading Student Union bar with a talk by NASA Astronaut Dr Michael Foale CBE, PhD.
Michael is a NASA veteran of six space missions. Starting his training in 1988, this British born hero is now in his early 60’s and retired from NASA. It took him three attempts to be accepted, but his persistence paid off and he has flown on six space shuttle missions and a Soyuz and has clocked up 373 days in space. He’s also been a Commander on the International Space Station (ISS).
During his missions he’s done some incredibly brave and impressive things proving that he’s definitely made of the “Right Stuff!” He was the first British Astronaught to perform a spacewalk, where he fixed the Hubble Telescope by installing a corrective lenses… yes, he basically put a pair of eye glasses on it so it was in focus.
He also survived a crash on the Russian Mir Space Station when a supply craft crashed into Mir. This was apparently the result of cost cuts that meant the docking computer was replaced by human piloting skills, requiring pilots to dock manually at 17,150 mph… One time the supply craft missed the docking port and hit Mir’s hull, which subsequently took many of the systems down as it tumbled out of control and began to depressurise. Michael’s calm and focused actions finally saved them. It took a couple of orbits but he and the team eventually got Mir’s solar cells pointing back in the right direction so they could get the power back up and restore the vital systems.
Michael is a very inspirational, humble and likeable character and during the evening he shared many other amazing stories.
I would love to go into space and experience weightlessness and explore worlds beyond our own, but right now whizzing around the earth at 17,150 mph in a tin can for months at a time with the threat of space debris piercing the hull is a bit beyond my comfort zone. I think I’ll leave that to those much braver than me until I can hop on a charter flight to the moon.
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Great article! I was lucky enough to meet Commander Hadfield and also Helen Sharman at various talks etc. over the last couple of years, and they were so fascinating. It must be amazing to be an astronaut!
@sianz thanks! and wow that's cool Chris Hadfield is one of my favorite Astronauts, he's done some great you-tube videos. Helen Sharman is also amazing. I almost met Tim Peake last year at The Big Bang Science Fair last year but he was mobbed by Children so I couldn't get get near him :-)