World Space Week

Today marks the beginning of World Space Week, an annual international celebration of the many benefits of the exploration of outer space.

This year’s theme for the event is “Space for Human Safety and Security”, which seeks to extol the virtues of how much Earth observation, navigation and telecommunication satellites are used everyday to protect humans and safeguard our environment.

Chosen specifically for this date by the UN General Assembly to mark the succesful launch of Sputnik 1, the first man-made satellite, on October 4th 1957, and the signining of the ‘Treaty on Principles Governing the Activites of States in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies’ on October 10 1967, World Space Week has been held every year since 1999, and seeks primarily to educate people about the positives of space exploration and encourage better public understanding and support for space programmes.

We’re very keen on space in the Library, and not just the kind students look for for studying in! We possess a large range of material about space flight and the history of astronautics, including access to NASA’s Scientific & Technical Information (STI) web site among our extensive array of Aeronautical databases.

For more information about World Space Week, including an opportunity to participate in a ‘Tweet-up’ with legendary Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, visit their website here:

Mars, Bringer of… Curiosity!

NASA took another giant step forward in mankind’s exploration of the Solar System this morning following the successful landing of a new robot explorer, named Curiosity, on Mars.

Curiosity’s primary assignment is to look for signs of life among the frozen red sands of our enigmatic near-neighbour. It is the fourth robotic rover NASA have landed on Mars since 1997, but Curiosity’s size and the sophistication of its hardware dwarfs all previous missions, as it includes a plutonium battery with a ten-year plus lifespan, two on-board laboratories to analysis soil and rock samples, and laser system to help identify such samples to the minutest atomic detail. Costing a mere $2.6 billion dollars, hopes are high that this project will prove the most revealing exploration of Mars yet, possibly even paving the way for a manned mission in future.

Curiosity landed successfully in the Gale Crater at just after 6.30AM amid scenes of great jubilation back in NASA mission control in Pasadena and almost immediately began to transmit pictures of its new ‘home’. You can follow the passage of the mission via NASA’s website here.

The Library has quite a range of material about space exploration among our aeronautical engineering section, as well as several books on the topic of the Red Planet, including H.G. Wells seminal War of the Worlds. Let’s hope Curiosity finds something a lot friendlier than Mr Wells’ Martians…!!

Earth & Mars image courtesy of bluedharma, reproduced under CC License from Flickr.

Fifty Years of Europe in Space

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Established through an agreement between the various Western European states on June 14th 1962, the ESA initially began life as two seperate organisations, ELDO (European Launch Development Organisation), which tackled the thorny issue launching men and materials into space, and ESRO (European Space Research Organisation), which, as its title suggests, carried out space research. It wasn’t until 1975 that the two organisations were merged to form what is now the ESA.

Although European space exploration has remained very much in the shadow of the more illustrious (and better funded) United States and Russian space programmes, the ESA has achieved many notable successes, including the Ariane commercial launch vehicle, and has since gone on to form partnerships and collaborations with both NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency on a variety of projects.

Indeed, the first ESA astronaut into space was the German Ulf Merbold in 1983, who was part of a NASA mission to help set up the ESA designed Spacelab laboratory which would be re-used to good effect during 22 Space Shuttle missions between ’83 and 1998.

The Library has a current subscription to the ESA Bulletin, in addition to a wealth of information about astronautics and space flight technology among our hard-copy and electronic resource aero-auto engineering collections. Plus you can find out a lot more about the ESA and its history from its web site here:

Image shows the International Space Station, courtesy of NASA, reproduced under CC License from Flickr.

Libraries in Space: The Next Generation!

It was announced today that the Pilkington Library is going to be at the forefront of the next stage of Great Britain’s space exploration program – by boldly going where no library has gone before by putting the first librarian into space.

Loughborough University’s brand new space exploration department, Astronautics, Planetary Research Information Logistics & Fundamental Operations Office Loughborough, proudly unveiled plans for its Space Exploration Module Orbiting Library Information Network Astronaut  project (or SEMOLINA for short), with the aim of launching a member of Library staff into orbit some time during the Spring of 2014.

Flora Lopis, the head of the SEMOLINA project, exclusively revealed to us how this will be happening. “A launch pad will be incorporated as part of the new Level 4 work that will be undertaken in the Library during 2013, and Holywell Park Lake has already been approved as the location for the splash-downs of our space capsules. I can’t tell you how excited we all are by the prospect of beating the American, Russian and Chinese space programs by launching a librarian into orbit first.”

No official confirmation has yet been made as to which member of the library team has been selected for this singular inter-galactic honour, but staff have been quick to nominate who among their number they’d most like to see taking the Library into the realms of ‘the Final Frontier’. A member of the Academic Services Team, who wished to remain anonymous, remarked on their own nominee:

“We can think of few better candidates we’d most like to fire into space. And, incidentally, I call dibs on his stapler and brand new set of Dewey Decimal 23.”

For updates on the project, visit this website.

Rocket logo copyright Jen Montes, reproduced from Flickr under CC Licence.

Boldly Returning From Where No Man Had Gone Before…

Fifty years ago today John Glenn made a successful return to Earth after his Mercury space capsule Friendship 7 completed three orbits of the Earth.

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first man into space on April 12 1961, and Alan Shepard the first American into space three weeks afterwards, but Glenn had made history by becoming the first NASA astronaut to achieve and hold orbit. Three more successful Mercury missions followed before NASA switched their attention to a more ambitious goal – landing a man on the Moon. Successive Gemini and Apollo space programs saw the culmination of this goal with the successful lunar landing of Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 mission in July 1969.

The Library possesses a large range of material about space flight and the history of astronautics, including access to NASA’s Scientific & Technical Information (STI) web site among our extensive array of Aeronautical databases. But if you’re more into the historical and social side of manned spaceflight rather than the technical stuff, you can find day-to-day press chronicles of every astronautical feat from the 20th century among our newspaper archives such as The Times Digital Archive and The Daily Mirror Archive. 

Pictured is the launch of John Glenn’s Friendship 7 capsule on February 20th 1962, from the NASA Collection reproduced  under CC License from Flickr.