Sunday, 19 July 2009


Just back from a terrific day at Jodrell Bank (above) attending the ‘moonbounce’ event to commemorate Apollo 11. There were talks from a number of luminaries that kept us entertained all day .
Speakers included Sir Bernard Lovell, the founder of the telescope here at Jodrell, Andrew Smith, the writer of ‘Moondust’ (a must-read book for all Apollo buffs everywhere) and Colin Pillinger, the scientist who shot to prominence as lead scientist on the Beagle II project.
I especially enjoyed Andrew Smith’s reading – an extract from ‘Moondust’ that was set against archive film of Eagle descending to the sea of Tranquillity, and a haunting sound track by Brian Eno. The timing of the reading was perfect and it captured the atmosphere of the moment in a way that words alone could not have done. Everyone in the audience was visibly moved by what they saw and heard.
Then in the afternoon Colin Pillinger spoke, in a way that offered hope, about NASA’s plans to revisit the moon via the Ares project. There have been plans before and as I said yesterday there’s no money and these things come and go, and yes, I’m still a bit sceptical. But Professor Pillinger was so positive and optimistic and... well, wouldn’t it be fabulous if this really did come to pass.

Here's me, (in blue) standing in front of the 250ft telescope at Jodrell Bank. Yes, it really is that big!

And then it was time for the ‘moonbounce’ itself. Competition winners were invited to speak into a microphone and have their words relayed to the telescope in Cambridge, transmitted out to the moon where they bounced back to be received by the 250ft telescope at Jodrell Bank. We all heard the words as a ghostly echo 2.5 seconds later.
It sounds trivial. It wasn’t.
It was done in a way that thrilled us all.
In the end we were all invited to shout out “Hello moon,” and 2.5 seconds later the ghostly echo of our voices came back.
Wow! My voice has been to the moon and back.
I’m still smiling.

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