Tag Archives: space

Knocking on Space’s Door.

The idea of space travel has been knocking about in the back of my brain for quite a few years now, in fact since the time when Sir Richard Branson was sponsoring the Brawn GP Formula One Team. Back then we (KL) were mulling over getting into F-1 sponsorship (which we eventually did get into by sponsoring Scuderia Ferrari) and I met RB at a race. To cut a long story short, after a good bit of banter I ended up buying a ticket from his good offices – for a trip into space!

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Since then, I’ve managed to bone up and get some practice in on space-related themes by experiencing weightlessness (in an IL-76), witnessing the launch of a Soyuz from Baikonur, and visiting the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City.

Weightlessness is just awesome, and I had no real problems getting the knack of it. But to dock a Soyuz trainer to a mock-up International Space Station – I couldn’t crack that: I couldn’t get the hang of the management console there. It seems space engineers have no clue about user experience and A/B testing :).

In the meantime, a cosmodrome was built for Virgin Galactic. This isn’t too large as only sub-orbital planes are planned to be launched from it. There’ve already been test flights, glamorous presentations, and other assorted good news stories coming out of it. Then there was some very bad news; then there was a long silence for some 18 months.

Then, just the other day, out of the blue space, I received a communication of cosmic importance! (They don’t forget about their clients – already a good sign. But it gets better…)

Read on: Dear astronaut…

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Top-100 Series: The Final Few.

Herewith, my personal ‘Top-100 Amazingly Beautiful Must-See Places in the World Split up Into the Continents Thereof‘ is coming to a close.

To date, I’ve given you Place Nos. 1–90 of my Top-100. There’ll be a further four coming up below (Nos. 97–100). That of course leaves a mysterious gap – from 91 to 96…

Actually, no mystery at all here. It’s just my not being able to nail the nice round figure of 100! I mean, I could fill the gap with some of the bonus tracks, or I could wait until someone – hopefully in the comments (below) – comes up with some must-sees I’ve scandalously not considered for whatever reason. So really it’s a gap that leaves some room for improvement/perfecting, not knowing for sure how exactly to improve and perfect it now.

That potentially awkward caveat out of the way, let’s get those last Tops, er, out of the way…

97. North Pole.

Perhaps you could have guessed this one would be in this post scriptum installment of my Top-100, as it isn’t a part of a continent – ain’t no country even – so it was always going to be tricky ‘fitting it in’.

You can get to it on an icebreaker on a tour (pics only; Russian text), and I’m told it’s a really worthwhile excursion – not to mention an extreme one.

One thing you won’t see here but might have thought you would are… penguins! Nope, they’re on the other side of the world – on Antarctica (and nearby southern extremes of South America and South Africa).

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Read on: space…

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Weightlessness: awesomeness.

I recently discovered a most unpleasant feature of my favorite Sony RX-100: it doesn’t take pics in zero gravity! Instead, it curtly announces ‘Drop detected’ on the screen and switches itself off. But I didn’t drop it! The only thing that was dropped was the level of gravity – to zero! Sony, I know you’ve enough troubles as it is right now, but please – this issue needs addressing!!

Zero gravity experience

I later found out that it’s possible to turn off this ‘feature’, but in the heat of the moment, when about to enter a state of weightlessness, delving into complex multi-branch menus on your chosen piece of photographic kit is the last thing you want to be doing. But thankfully nothing was missed this time – just about everyone on this zero-gravity mission (I’ll get to the details shortly) had a camera and was happily snapping away throughout the duration…

This is my one pic of the day’s events – before my camera conked:

Zero gravity experienceSneak preview: we went all floating-in-the-air-like-spacemen-in-a-spaceship in this beast

So, weightlessness – complete weightlessness, zero gravitation… What is it?

Actually, it’s not quite as exotic and out-of-reach as you might at first think. Let me show you by way of a mini experiment…

Get up from your chair right now and jump up and down.

No, really, I’m serious!

Zero gravity experience

Zero gravity experience

Read on: Weeeeeeeeeh!…

3, 2, 1… liftoff!

At last! Another dream of mine has come true – to see a spaceship take off! Hurray!

Last week it left Baikonur in Kazakhstan, and by the weekend it had already reached the International Space Station and docked. The crew’s made up of two Russians and one American – which perhaps explains why around town and in our hotel much American-accented English was to be heard.

We watched the liftoff from about two kilometers away, which might seem a long way off. But it isn’t. This isn’t U2 playing a stadium where being at the back is almost a waste of time and money… This is the Baikonur experience. The power generated by the massive rocket engines shook everything around so much it felt like an earthquake was occurring at the same time as the liftoff. Rather unnerving.

Baikonur Space Launch CenterThe spike on the top means the ship’s manned; if it was without one, it would mean no crew – an unmanned remote-controlled cargo mission

Read on: Baikonur from inside…

Star City.

Greetings all!

Here we are again. September. The holiday month of August over, and it’s back to work – which for me means back on the road or, rather, in the plane. This season is set to see me doing my usual globetrotting thing, but with the itinerary including some new countries and new events. Goodo, gotta keep some novelty in there! The schedule needs to stay real flexible as plans can easily change real quick, as experience has shown many times. This year I may even break my previous record – or maybe better put, dubious record – of 100 flights made in a year. This year I’ve already notched up 59… (I keep careful count of them, just in case).

But between Kamchatka and the next whirlwind tour, I really wanted to “lay low in MOW” for a few weeks, get my bearings, regroup, ground myself, and all that – and re-familiarize myself with the abode and city I – on paper – reside in. I figured this necessary as I’d started forgetting which switch is for the kitchen and which for the hall! Thus, today – a story and pics about a trip to a really interesting place in the Moscow Region – the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City. This place is really something – I highly recommend a visit. A day excursion can be arranged where they show and tell you all, let you poke and prod the various exhibits and climb inside the spaceships in which they train cosmonauts (who keep appearing in the hall walking about to and fro, to the delight of the excursioners).

You can clamber inside the reentry capsule of Soyuz in which cosmonauts return back to earth. The guides go into all sorts of detail about space missions and the landing back on earth, about particular cases, and so on and on and on… I won’t tell you it all here. Best see it and hear it all for yourselves in the flesh.

Training Center Dummy

More: centrifuges, hydro-pool, planetarium and MIR space station …