Teenage Enthusiasm !
November 29, 2012
Let's see.......... First I found an old encyclopedia lying around a 'spare room' which was full of old stuff, mostly forgotten. In it I found a section on the solar system and the universe (now wildly out of date and inaccurate).This was the first spark of interest in space for me, and was probably at 15 years of age when, of course, three things mattered to me: girls, rock 'n' roll, the promise of a future 'space age', and (did I mention?), girls (never could count too well. Then along came the second spark, October 1957 and Sputnik ! I remember the newspaper headline - "Space Age Has Arrived". The mind boggled, the imagination ran wild, and off we went! Also, along came the realisation that it was not an American triumph and that there was going to be a heck of a rivalry over the years. I guess, in retrospect, this created the space race, providing much excitement (and tension) between the USA and the USSR. However, without this Cold War rivalry there may not have been any moon landings at all. I was in England at this time and, living close to the (then) new Jodrell Bank radio telescope facility made me feel, in my own small way, that we (the British) were very much a useful contributor to it all as this facility tracked Sputnik's signal. The almost complete lack of information coming out of the Soviet Union was extremely frustrating, but it was a different world then and now all the information that is available from the Russians is endlessly fascinating, especially from the excellent and amazingly detailed 1000-page book "Challenge To Apollo" by Asif Siddiqi. What a great read! So there it was, I was hooked for life on anything to do with space and rocketry, collecting newspaper and magazine articles on every major space shot, especially all the manned missions. What joy when the Apollo moon program was succesful, and what a fascinating time was had during each of the first looks at Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. I consider it to have been the best of times from the 1950's through to the present. One regret though. In the 50's and 60's we were all promised that by the 1980's we would be able to take vacations on the moon, Mars and in space stations circling the Earth. The movie '2001 - A Space Oddity' even gave us a fortaste of this exiting time. I was ready to go, and now will be lucky to live long enough to see a manned Mars landing. Nevertheless, we have all witnessed so much and seen so many great discoveries that we can't complain. I know that no other generation has seen so much accomplished in their lifetime and for that I am so greatful. What a ride it has been - and there's so much more to come.
An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.