Here’s the fifth, and final, short post that count down to ESA Astronaut Tim Peake’s blast off to the International Space Station, today (15 December). The five posts double up as my Space highlights for 2015…
(#1) Space highlights of 2015 – The ISS
It’s vast and improbable yet this year it celebrated its 15th anniversary…
“It’s a million pounds, over the size of a football field, flying around the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour in a vacuum – and it works.”
–NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly who recently passed the milestone for the longest time spent in Space on his way to a full year at the ISS.
You can easily find plenty of info about the ISS – perhaps start with the snapshot graphics of NASA’s own facts and figures. There are intriguing items too like Quora’s ‘intelligent Q&A’ site where you will find the typical daily schedule of people up on the ISS. Also check out this 15 minute video of unique, insightful footage from a previous journey to the ISS. Pay close attention to the clip for some refreshingly mundane chit-chat between the astronauts: a see-saw of forced humour and subdued fear as first they hurtle up to near Earth orbit and then ‘fall’ towards docking with the ISS itself.
When I consider the ISS, its International adjective holds as much charm as the Space noun. The ISS is like the centrepiece atop of the civilisation cake: layers developed through centuries of science, some palatable politics and an icing of culture.
It’s the fact that different nationalities, genders, colours, cultures and creeds can work together and achieve genuine ‘greatness’. Sure, the few humans on the ISS are incredibly hard-working honest souls with extremely well-exercised brains, and all have come from relatively well-off nations. Nonetheless, nothing on Earth seems to comes close to this beacon of international harmony, achievement, and enduring benefit to humankind.
International endeavour – and the globalised world – influence my fiction too. For my short debut novel (free download today, see below) I chose to create a protagonist from China given the global power tilt eastward. Point being, in my humble view, if humans want to maximise the potential of scientific innovation and Space exploration, it’s going to involve Chinese partners.
China’s current ability and desire to achieve vast, ambitious projects is second to none – consider the contended South Sea Islands, or their 500 metre “F.A.S.T.” telescope. The latter is the largest Earth-bound telescope, by far, and it is nearing completion in the hills of rural China. The ‘F’ of the acronym stands for ‘Five hundred metres’ – nearly twice the diameter of the current largest radio telescope, found in Puerto Rico. So if you want a hint of how China will likely push the boundaries of Space exploration, you only need to spy what is happening here on Earth…
P.s. A giveaway for today
If you’re interested in the topics touched upon in this brief post, please grab today’s e-book giveaway of my debut novella Monkey Steals Plum, a literary science fiction sojourn through Space, China and Manchester, UK, that forms part one of the Feng Trilogy.