Thursday, January 27, 2005

Spaceport Queen countdown commences

Last year the delightful Juan de Dalmau invited me to give a lecture at the Kourou spaceport. For a while, it looked as if other commitments might get in the way, but everything has worked itself out and I am off to French Guiana in March. In the meantime I must contemplate my talk. Juan wants me to discuss Australian reactions when the nascent ESA - called ELDO - moved operations to Kourou from Woomera. Let me tell you right here that "pissed off" is an understatement. The French had been wooing the British for some time to throw their lot in with them, and then the Poms decided to buy US weaponry rather then developing their own at Woomera. The Australians felt betrayed, yet again, by Britain. They were happy to contaminate Australian soil with nuclear tests, but not prepared to demonstrate any commitment to the development of the colony.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Little Lemon

My father told me a very interesting story a few days ago. We used to keep racehorses, and our champion horse when I was a child was called Gooyong. She was born in the same year that Laika the dog went into orbit. My father wanted to call her "Little Lemon", as Laika was also known as Limonchik. For those of you unfamiliar with the racing industry, all horses have to be registered, and to avoid duplication of names, a board has to approve each one. Dad's application to call the new horse Little Lemon was rejected. He was very annoyed. But it seems that no-one else had applied for the name. Was this Cold War paranoia?

Funnily enough, Gooyong still has a space connection. It is also the name of a street in Woomera.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A spacey New Year

Happy New Year to all and sundry. I have had a few computer problems since I last posted, but a new operating system has made all the difference.

Did anyone watch the documentary on the moon landing conspiracy theory last week? I was pleased to see the ease with which they debunked the main arguments. James Oberg, who was to have written NASA's book on the subject, figured heavily. But I wonder if such solid evidence convinces the die-hard conspiracists?

I have a friend who is 'undecided' on the issue. When we discussed it, she was unaware that (1) there are research programs and publications and experimental results on moon rocks brought back from the Apollo missions - an enormous effort to fake all of it - and (2) that the moon has, obviously, a radically different geological history and composition to the Earth. It would also be hard to fake moon rocks!