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So, you want to be an astronaut?

The astronaut candidates

Image Credit: BBC

Astronomy and geophysics are well represented among the 12 finalists in the BBC2 series Astronauts: do you have what it takes?, which starts this sunday. And one of them owes his interest in the subject to an encounter with Patrick Moore.

Everybody wants to be an astronaut, right? Well, not everybody, but a lot of the people who end up working in astronomy and planetary research were inspired by Apollo and later space missions. Now the BBC has produced a series taking 12 candidates – selected from a pool of 400 applicants – through various levels of astronaut training. 

Three of the final 12 have links to astronomy and geophysics: Suzie Imber is an associate professor of planetary science at the University of Leicester and Tim is a postgraduate student in meteoritics at the University of Bristol. RAS Fellow Gordon Rogers also pointed out to me that Derreck Vangelderen is also someone who became interested in the field through a teenage encounter with Patrick Moore. "You may be interested in the route that lead him into science," wrote Gordon. "Derreck has just completed his thesis on the safety of atomic power stations extending to 481 pages and I was amazed to see that my name was listed amongst the page and a half of professors who had assisted him. The reason for this was that when he was a teenager I took him down to see Patrick Moore. He was enthralled by his day with Patrick and left determined to be a scientist: I am sure you will have heard how many times Patrick motivated youngsters into action – and old boys like me too.

Astronauts: have you got what it takes? starts on Sunday 20 August and is broadcast at 9pm for a total of six episodes.  Watch live or at your convenience and see if these space scientists succeed! 


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