28 March 2011 (Monday) - Piers Sellers

One of the advantages of having Sky Plus is that I can record telly programmes and watch them when I want, and can fast-forward through the adverts. So an hour's program will only take forty minutes of my time. I watched the first episode of the new season of "V" this morning (minus adverts). It follows on from the last season, most of which I've forgotten, which was a nuisance.

But the show was quite watchable, with only one problem. One thing I hate in TV is when they make up the science in an attempt to inject some realism into the program. A character in the show had a certain blood test done during a medical crisis. Without going into details, what she had done was akin to having a car's tyre pressures checked when the engine is on fire. Utterly irrelevant, and simply does not and would not happen. For me it made a nonsense of what was otherwise a very good show.

After a dull day at work I followed the outer space theme. I drove five of us to be part of the astro club’s contingent at Cranbrook School. Kent-born British astronaut Piers Sellers was giving a talk at his old alma mater, and we’d secured tickets for the evening. I would have found a lecture on the life and work of an astronaut fascinating, but to have the talk given by an astronaut who’s been to the International Space Station three times was a once in a lifetime treat.  And Piers was a very down-to-earth guy, openly admitting he was the world’s oldest active astronaut. His talk was really interesting, with snippets of first hand experience. For example the food on the ISS is very variable. The US astronauts’ food isn’t very good compared to what the ESA sends up. But NASA has Starbucks coffee, and so there’s apparently quite a bit of bartering of food and coffee in orbit.
And there was a very lively question and answer session too, touching on such diverse subjects as the mechanics of having a poo in zero-G, eating M&Ms in orbit, and possible future missions to Mars.
After the talk the audience were invited to the school’s telescope, which is shared with the local astronomical society C.A.D.S.A.S. On realising we were members of the Ashford astro club, the C.A.D.S.A.S. people shook our hands, and were so friendly and welcoming, and renewed our standing invitation to observe with them whenever we like.

All things considered we had a wonderful night out. I’d certainly go again if ever the chance arose…

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