Ground Control to Major Tim

Tim Peake blasts off into space in a Russian rocket that looks like a prop from a 1950s Sci-Fi film and joins the crew of the International Space Station. I’m not quite sure where the silly idea that he’s the first Briton in space comes from, he’s actually the seventh, the first of whom was Helen Sharman way back in 1991. But it’s all good for national pride having another one of us in orbit.

There are inevitably some self-righteous individuals who complain that space exploration is a waste of money. It should be spent on schools and hospitals, or a new road, they pompously proclaim. But they’re wrong.

If nothing else, space is a cultural loss-leader.

I was eight years ago when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked upon the surface of the Moon. I still remember it all vividly. It was the first significant historical event of my lifetime that an eight year old could understand. The blanket media coverage caught the public imagination in a way few other scientific projects could hope to achieve.

It’s things like that which inspire a generation to pursue careers in science and engineering, who will then go on to solve more mundane practical problems. That inspiration will benefit hospitals and railways and flood prevention and all the other things our complex civilisation needs to be designed and built by the next generation of engineers.

Every single eight year old who’s inspired by Tim Peake heading off into space and as a result doesn’t head for a career in finance playing zero-sum shell games in the City will be a win.

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5 Responses to Ground Control to Major Tim

  1. Michael says:

    Quite so.

    I too know where I watched that great adventure live on TV.

    Mind you, by that point I had punched my first paper tape and was quite hooked on technology.

  2. Actually surprised to find you’re that much older than me, Tim!

    I was 4 when I watched the Moon landing. Well, I’ve been told I watched it but I have no memory of it at all :-(

  3. Tim Hall says:

    I was made to watch Winston Churchill’s funeral at the same age, and like you I don’t remember a thing about it. Too young to understand what was going on or know who Winston Churchill was.

  4. Synthetase says:

    I remember having similar feelings regarding remembrance day when I was in early primary school. I had no idea about either world war or what it was we were supposed to be observing.

  5. Chuk says:

    Yeah, I too thought you were a couple of years younger than me but you’re almost ten years older.
    The moon landing is one of the main historical events I wish I’d been around to see. While I was a kid and we even had a TV for some of the last few landings, I don’t remember watching any of them.