Although never really considered a member of the space club, the United Kingdom has issued a set of stamps marking that nation’s role in the exploration of space. The stamps, released Oct. 18, are exciting in that they show images of the solar system taken from European Space Agency probes, partly funded by Britain. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first British satellite, Ariel 1, launched April 26, 1962 from Cape Canaveral. All six of the Ariel satellites, used for research of the ionosphere and cosmic X-rays, were launched from Cape Canaveral. Britain did launch one satellite, Prospero, from a site in Australia busing the British Black Arrow launch vehicle. After that the British abandoned efforts to create their own launch vehicle and have launched satellites by contracting the services to NASA. Continue reading →
On a clear night, you can look up and see most of the planets, if you know where to look, with your naked eyes. If you do it often, they become familiar enough that you begin to recognize them without thinking. Jupiter in its glory, blazing Venus, and even Saturn are not that hard to spot, but sometimes elusive in our world of light and atmospheric pollution. Nothing I ever saw prepared me for these dramatic images. What makes it exciting is that these stamps show images of the planets that could never be seen by an earthbound observer. This is the way the solar system looks to us as we begin to explore our tiny section of the cosmos.
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