Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Space Statistics Prove Just How Small We Are

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Space Statistics Prove Just How Small We Are

Article excerpt

SWANNELL

PETER SWANNELL

PLEASE feel free to ignore the numbers in this column.

They are just me trying to show how smart I am.

Sitting as near as I can afford it to the front of a big plane flown by a good pilot with a good airline is what I like doing.

A gin and tonic, the prospect of a smooth ride with legitimately nothing to do for several hours, suits me down to the ground.

Well, not exactly down to the ground, but I think you get the gist of what I'm saying.

I'm lucky enough to have been across the world, this way or that, about 50 times over the last 45 years so I've knocked off a few gins high above many different countries.

I've never fancied going into orbit. 40,000 feet is plenty high enough to see large chunks of the Earth and I've never had the inclination to be weightless. A little dieting, yes, certainly that's okay, but there is a limit....

Of course I am full of admiration for those astronauts who train for years before getting propelled at enormous speed to the International Space Station. The UK has mainly concentrated on unmanned space travel and only seven British astronauts have so far been fired into space, in US or Russian projects.

The first, back in 1991, was Helen Sharman, a chemist, selected from some 13,000 applicants in 1989. She was just 27 years and 11 months old when she went into space, making her (as of 2015) the sixth youngest of the 545 individuals who have flown in space.

She undertook a most rigorous training program before the flight and devoted much of her subsequent career promoting science to the general public. She has just recently been appointed Operations Manager at Imperial College in the University of London.

The latest British-born astronaut is Timothy Peake who joined the Soyuz TMA-19M mission about two months ago and is into space-walking. …

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