A Timely Reform by Ian Ridley

Blog & web site of Ian Ridley

2004: A BBC Space Odyssey

To tell the truth I’ve been rather busy this last year – hence no Blog. Anyway I’m back.

I’ve been watching the BBC mini-series Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets, which concluded last night. I suppose you could describe it as a docu-drama. In all it was pretty good although it got increasingly far-fetched towards the end.

I know I write with a little knowledge in this area (an academic back ground in space science, not forgetting that crucial GCSE in Astronomy) but things I wouldn’t do on the first manned misson around the solar system:

  1. Land on Venus – 400 deg C, acid rain, active volcanoes and enough air pressure to squash you flat….
  2. Sling shot round the sun without any ability to dodge solar flares
  3. Go through the “asteroid belt”. Even allowing for the fact that it’s not the dense collection of rocks that most people think it is (space is really big and you’d need a lot of rock to fill it) I’d still go outside the plane of most asteroids’ orbits
  4. Land on Io – really active volcanoes, even more so than Venus. Plus Jupiter’s gravity well and radiation fields
  5. Not land on Europa. Possibly the next most interesting thing around here next to Mars and they send a probe.
  6. Stick your spacecraft in a gap in Saturn’s rings – how dodgy is that? And then do an EVA
  7. Ignore all the Saturian moons apart from Titan. At least give one of Iapetus (albedo variation), Mimas (massive crater) or Enceladus (geologically active?) a look
  8. Ignore Uranus or Neptune in favour of Pluto unless (as in the case of this programme) you really can’t make the orbital mechanics work for you
  9. Land on a comet that is getting close enough to the sun to heat up

It’s amazing they got back at all.

Still it wouldn’t have been an exciting docu-thingy if they’d played it safe

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