Leicester - National
w/e 15 February
this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490
In the 1950s space travel was but a dream for the majority of
people but I, like many other schoolboys at the time, eagerly
awaited the next issue of a weekly comic "The Eagle"
to follow the adventures of Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future and
his sworn enemy the green egg-headed Mekon, ruler of the Treens
of northern Venus. Now only half a century later, man has been
to the moon, there's an International Space Station and probes
have been dispatched to the farthest corners of the universe.
Not only that but we now have a National Space Centre at Leicester
where you can get up close and personal with some of the space
paraphernalia, the main entrance being overlooked by the futuristic
looking Rocket Tower.
Inside the tower, the largest rocket ever built in the UK, the
Blue Streak stands next to Thor Able, a two stage rocket that
ran on kerosene and liquid oxygen. Thor rockets were used until
1980 launching several satellites including the world's first
weather satellite. Quite an achievement after a rather inauspicious
start when the first rocket rose just ten centimetres from the
launch pad before falling back and exploding.
The Thor Able rocket on display in the Rocket Tower bears the
inscription US Air Force but to reach the it we had passed along
an elevated gallery where this CCPP USSR marked spacecraft was
suspended above the floor below.
Alongside the American and Russian exhibits, there is also a
full scale mock-up of the European Space Agency's Columbus module
for the International Space Station.
There are six differently themed galleries in the museum for
that is really what the Nation Space Centre is, ranging from
"Exploring the Universe" and "Orbiting Earth"
to "The Planets" and "Space Theatre".
In "The Planets" section there are further subdivisions
and here we can see part of the Jupiter section with the arced
feature representing the Milky Way.
Another area in the same section includes a representation of
the surface of Mars complete with a vehicle for exploration and
investigation of the planet. The subdued red lighting is quite
appropriate for Mars which is of course also known as the Red
Nearby but still in the Mars section are a series of touch screen
tables that reveal numerous interesting facts, details and photographs
about the planet.
Although the Centre is a museum, visitors are often encouraged
to have a "hands on" approach and there are many interactive
features. On this one you have to control a satellite orbiting
the earth so the the solar panels point towards the sun. Success
results in a green light but failure means the satellite is no
longer functional. For youngsters, and many school visits are
arranged, this combines learning with a element of fun.
Another area that is extremely popular with youngsters (and some
of more advanced years too) is Tranquillity Base which contains
many interactive modules including a Spaceflight Induction Module
that allows you to fly in a "stunning 3D simulated journey
to the ice moon Europa through meteorite showers and radiation
clouds before the hair raising ice canyon run on Europa itself."
Having experienced the simulation myself I would suggest the
end of the journey would probably be better described as a crash
landing or something akin to a Dan Dare and the Mekon adventure
- but that's where we came in isn't it?
If this has whetted your appetite for space travel or even just
a visit to the National Space Centre there are a couple of websites
that you might like to visit first. One is obviously the Centre's
own website ad the other which includes some panoramic views
inside the Centre is this page on the BBC Leicester site.