Episode 72: Satish Dhawan Space Centre

Located about 80km from Chennai on India’s east coast, Satish Dhawan Space centre is used by ISRO to launch all of its satellites including those to the Moon and Mars. Also known as Sriharikota, it was established during the late 1960s but today it has a vehicle assembly building, two launch pads and a state of the art mission control centre

Episode 71 – TATA Institute for Fundamental Research

The Indian Space Program was initiated by a brilliant nuclear physicist Homi Bhabha who pretty much immediately handed over the space program to Vikram Sarabhai. Bhabha himself pursued the goal of bringing institutionalised fundamental research to India. At the time he saw that as essential for the new emerging independent India.

Episode 70 – India’s Deep Space Network and ISRO Satellite Centre

India’s space program is now over half a century old. During this time its Infrastructure has evolved. This episode looks at the current communication capabilities used to support space vehicles during launch, in Earth orbit or on a interplanetary missions. ISRO has an extensive network of ground stations on the Indian mainland, off-shore and neighbouring countries […]

Episode 69 Mars Orbiter Mission

Interview recorded at ISRO’s satellite Centre in Bangalore with Mars Orbiter Mission program director Dr Mylswamy Annadurai. This interview was recorded on 26th March 2014 after MOM was launched but before it arrived at Mars.

Episode 67 : Technik Museum Speyer

This episode is a preview of some of the space related exhibits in Europe’s largest aerospace museum – Speyer Technik Museum, in Germany. If you ever go and the following may entice you to do so,  four space exhibits to look out for include the following: Soyuz TM19 – The landing capsule Soyuz TM-19 was […]

Episode 66: Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre

November 21st 2013 was the 50th anniversary of a rocket launched from India in to space. The launch itself was an all Indian affair but with lots of international support. The rocket was American, carried a French Sodium Vapour payload with assisted by a computer and a helicopter from the Soviet Union. From this meagre […]

Episode 65: ISRO – The early years

The Indian Space Research Organisation formally came in to being in 1972. By then, India had been developing its space program for almost a decade. The first launch to space from Indian soil was a two stage Nike-Apache rocket supplied by USA with a  sodium  payload from France. The rocket delivered a vertical trail of sodium […]

Episode 64: Bangalore Astronomical Society

  Another episode in the current series about space and India. Bangalore Astronomical Society (BAS) is probably the most industrious astronomical societies in India. Founded in 2006, it has nearly 200 paid up members based in and around Bangalore but a huge number of national and international followers online. In this episode, BAS president Naveen Nanjundappa, […]

Episode 63 – Rakesh Sharma India’s first and only spaceman

With a population of 1.2 billion people, India has just one national with first hand experience of spaceflight. Rakesh Sharma, a now retired Indian Air Force wing commander in 1984 spent eight days in space aboard the Soviet space station Salyut 7. This account of his spaceflight was recorded at this home in the Nilgris […]

Episode 62 – Vikram Sarabhai

Vikram Sarabhai  is unanimously accepted across India as the “father” of its space program. Not really known well outside India, he died suddenly and prematurely at age of 52 in 1971. He had studied cosmic ray physics and gained his PHD from Cambridge in 1947 the same year India became an independent nation.  He spent […]

Episode 61: Reg Turnill on Wernher von Braun

Like so many in the “space community” I was saddened to hear of the passing of Reg Turnill. He was  the BBC’s aerospace correspondent but is  best known  for covering the American Space program  throughout the 60s and 70s that he documents so well in his book Moonlandings: An eye witness account. He was the […]

Episode 60: Square Kilometre Array

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a global science and engineering project to build a revolutionary new radio telescope with extraordinary scientific ambitions. With funding from ten nations the building of the SKA will start in 2016 and be fully operational in 2024. It will tackle some of the profoundest questions of cosmology associated with […]

Episode 59: Astrophotograpy

If you have ever been to London and used the underground Tube service, it may well have been driven by the speaker in this episode. That is his day job but Nik Szymanek  is one of Britain’s best known astrophotographers. This interview was recorded during National Astronomy Meeting at the University of Manchester in 2012. […]

Episode 58: Astronauts Joe Engle and Ron Garan

The first  interview in this episode is with astronaut Joe Engle was recorded during his visit to the UK in 2008.   Joe Engle was at the front of the queue  to go to the Moon when NASA cut its Apollo program. His place was taken by the geologist Harrison Schmitt on Apollo 17 – the last manned […]

Episode 57: 15 October 2012 – Cassini Huygens Mission

Launched 15 years ago today, the Cassini Huygens mission has been one of the outstanding successes of solar system exploration and a model of NASA ESA collaboration. In episode 14 Professor John Zarnecki spoke about the science conducted from the surface of Titan by the Huygens lander in January 2005. The European Space Agency’s Huygens probe had […]

Episode 55: 4 August 2012: Mars Curiosity Rover

Since the mid 1970s six spacecraft (Viking 1 & 2, Sojourner, Opportunity, Spirit and Phoenix)  have successfully landed on the surface of Mars. In probably the most audacious, breathtaking and risky space missions, in less than two days, another  Mars Curiosity Rover will arrive on Mars. Using a technique never used before, NASA has described […]

Episode 54: 23 July 2012 – Manchester Interplanetary Society and Stanley Davis

The August 2012 edition of Spaceflight, the monthly magazine from the British Interplanetary Society carried an article where I discuss the Northwest of England’s contribution in Rocketry during the 1930s. An extended version of that article is available for free download on Astrotalkuk.org – here. So on to today’ episode. In 1937, two teenagers Harry […]

Episode 53: 28th June 2012 – The Chinese Space program

Brian Harvey is a Dublin based writer, author, broadcaster and probably the most informed specialist on Chinese and Soviet/Russian space program in Ireland today. This conversation recorded during the Shenzhou-9 / Tiangong-1 mission orbiting the Earth with the three crew including the first Chinese female astronaut on-board. At the end of the interview Brian Harvey talks about the Space Cooperation Memorandum signed last week.

Episode 52: 7th June 2012: Michael Wood Historian and Gagarin’s visit to Manchester

Historian Michael Wood’s documentary, The Great British Story – A People’s History, is currently being screened in the UK. Michael is from Manchester and was visiting Liverpool last weekend where he made time for this recording.

Episode 51: 5th June 2012: Profile – Author David Shayler

You know what it is like, you buy a book on a subject of interest and enjoy it. Later you see a book on a similar subject that you probably were not going to buy but do so because it is from that same author. Gradually, you end up with several books from that author in your collection.

David Shayler is one such author for me. During the Space Day event in Droitwich earlier this year organised by British Interplanetary Society West Midlands branch, I finally got to meet David. This is a short recording of our conversation I recorded then.

Episode 50: 26th March 2012: Manchester first Rocket Scientists

Robert Goddard in America , Sergei Korolev in the Soviet Union and Herman Oberth in Germany are three names credit with the development of rocket propulsion during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Each led a very small group with more dedication then resources working on a shoestring budget usually in their own time after work. Their […]

Episode 49: 17th March 2012: National Astronomy Meeting 2012

This episode has no specific astronomical topic but draws attention to a very special astronomy meeting later this month. The Royal Astronomical Society’s annual National Astronomy Meeting last year was held in Wales, next year it will be in Scotland but this year it is in Manchester. National Astronomy Meeting 2012 or NAM2012 will be hosted by the University of Manchester in partnership with Germany’s equivalent to the RAS, the Astronomische Gesellschaft in the last week of March 2012.

Episode 48: 13th February 2012: Mat Irvine, early BBC Special Effects Department and Sky at Night episode from 1963

The same year that the first woman made it in to space in 1963, a quaint children’s sci-fi series called Dr Who started on BBC television in the UK.  Eventually it became popular around the world and has enjoyed success once more since it restarted again in 2005. Mat Irvine worked in the special effects […]

Episode 47:25th July 2011: Yuri Gagarin Statue in London

Links to audio and video below. The 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s UK visit was marked by the unveiling of an aluminium statue of Gagarin, an exact copy of the one outside Lyubertsy Technical School number 10 where Gagarin started his training as a foundryman. The statue, a gift from the Russian federal space agency […]

Episode 46:10th July 2011: Yuri Gagarin in London and Manchester. New Book and Personal recollections

On his first visit outside the eastern bloc, Yuri Gagarin arrived in London for a 5 day visit on Tuesday July 11th 1961. He was greeted with a tumultuous and sincere warm welcome everywhere he went including his meetings with the Prime minister and the Queen. The British government juggled with acknowledging Gagarin personal courage […]

Episode 45: 4th July 2011: Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot Al Worden

Probably the most scientifically demanding Apollo mission, Apollo 15 was launched on 26th July 1971 on a two week mission. Al Worden in the command module orbited the Moon for 75 orbits whilst Dave Scott and James Irwin explored the south eastern edge of Mare Imbrium on the Moon’s surface.  Apollo 15 launched with the […]

Episode 44: 15th May 2011: First Orbit and Manchester’s Yuri Gagarin Exhibition

Another Yuri Gagarin episode, I know the anniversary of the world’s first spaceflight is over but there is still lots going on over the next few months. There are two contributors in this episode, Chris Riley and Richard Evans. One of the most successful projects to mark the anniversary is the film First Orbit. The […]

Episode 43 April 18th 2011: Apollo 12 and Captain Richard Gordon

Scroll down for the audio and video. 1969 is remembered for the unique event in history, Apollo 11 and the first men, Neil and Buzz on the surface of the Moon. Before the year was out, another three men headed the same way. On November 19th, Pete Conrad and Alan Bean precision landed Apollo 12 […]

Episode 42: April 12th 2011: Rare video of Yuri Gagarin in Manchester

Scroll down for the audio and video. On a cold bright Wednesday morning fifty years ago in the Soviet town of  Turatam, a rocket launched a man into space. A critical initial step for any civilisation that eventually travels to the stars. Any first is both special and trivial. Special because by definition it only […]

Episode 41: April 9th 2011: Yuri Gagarin and Reg Turnill

Scroll down for the audio and video. Reg Turnill joined the BBC in 1956 with the remit to cover aviation and defence. The launch of Sputnik 1 in the following year expanded his remit to include space. He is particularly well known for his coverage of the American Apollo program. In the UK, his name […]

Episode 40: April 2nd 2011: Gagarin in London : Captain Eric Brown

Scroll down for the options to play audio and video. On the third of Gagarin’s five days in Britain, immediately following his meeting with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, on Thursday 13th July 1961,  he had the only private meeting of his visit with Captain Eric Brown where the press was not invited, no photographs were […]

Episode 39: March 19th 2011: Spacecraft Operations

Scroll to the bottom for the audio and video. Since the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, thousands of unmanned spacecraft have been launched, mostly to Earth orbit, but many have gone to the inner and outer planets, and four of them have pretty much left the Solar System altogether. European Space Agency’s Mars Express […]

Episode 38: January 23rd 2011: Want to be an Astronaut? Book a ticket online

Scroll to the bottom of this post to play the audio or watch the video. Going in to space was nothing more than a dream for many of us for such a long time. But things are changing profoundly and fast. Once human spaceflight was only possible as part of a national government project. Then […]

Episode 37: November 21st 2010 : Progress of Science through the Ages

Scroll to the bottom of this post to play the audio. On November 3rd this year, Professor Jim Al-khalili was to give three lectures in Liverpool on the same day (Quantum Physics, Advances in Mathematics in Medieval Islam and On the Shoulders of Eastern Giants: the Forgotten Contribution of the Medieval Physicists). I did feel […]

Episode 36: October 11th 2010 – UK Space Policy and Yuri Gagarin’s visit to Manchester and London in July 1961

Next year April 12th  2011 marks the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s,  mankind’s,  first steps  into space. It was a product of the accumulated technology of many countries over many years but particularly driven by the the political landscape resulting from the 2nd world war. Since then successful robotic missions have visited the planets, asteroids […]

Episode 35: 22nd July 2010: Dr Edgar Mitchell – Apollo 14

A man playing golf on the moon is one of the images permanently etched into the collective memory of humanity’s first exploration of the moon. The so called “golf player” was Alan Shepard the guy with him was Dr Edgar Mitchell whilst Stuart Roosa orbited the moon in the command module. Today, Ed Mitchell, two […]

Episode 34: May 31st 2010 Effelsberg Radio Telescope

Nestling in a valley amongst the rolling green hills of the Eifel region of western Germany is the 100m Effelsberg steerable radio telescope. Similar to the Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank which is on the plains of Cheshire in northwest England which can be seen from miles away. The  Effelsberg telescope  is situated in a […]

Episode 33: January 27th 2010 : Ptolemy’s Almagest

If you had the task of gathering all of humanity’s knowledge of cosmology in one place, how would you do it? Answers to questions such as, How big is the Earth? At what date and time will the Moon be full again? What makes the Sun shine? How old is the Universe? Today a good […]

Episode 32: January 1st 2010 Sir Patrick Moore

Sir Patrick Moore is primarily known for his work on the long running TV series, The Sky at Night but he is an author, musician and an observational astronomer, too. He is also a former director of the Armagh Planetarium, a co-founder of the Society for Popular Astronomyand a former president of the British Astronomical […]

Episode 30: December 27th 2009 Prof. Barrie Jones

Today’s episode is a special recording with Professor Barrie Jones of the Open University. Special because during the Eighties, I studied several of the courses which he helped to develop and presented on the the late night OU TV programs.

Professor Jones joined the Open University in 1972 and since 2006 is the emeritus professor of astronomy. He recalls people he worked with at Cornell including Tom Gold, Frank Drake, Carl Sagan and the early days of Gamma Ray astronomy from balloons.

Episode 29: Venus

In size, mass and orbit Venus is the nearest Earth has to a twin in the Solar System. It is the brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon, hottest planet in the solar system, has a day longer than its year, is named after the Roman goddess of love and yet it […]

Episode 28: Apollo 13

On this day 40 years ago the crew of Apollo 11 fulfilled one of mankind’s longest held dreams and walked on the surface of the Moon. One of them Buzz Aldrin in episode 12 of ATUK, recalled a little of that experience. Today’s episode is a short recording with Fred Haise when he visited Pontefract […]

Episode 27: Astronomy on the Web

A different, interesting and at times a little silly episode this week.  Professor L Gay from the Southern University Edwardsville Illinois (SUEI) and Swinburne Astronomy Online but you will may be familiar with her voice on the probably most popular Astronomy podcast Astronomy Cast. This recording was made in Oxford during her visit in March […]

Episode 26: Antikythera Mechanism

Everyone who comes across the Antikythera mechanism goes through a phase initially of disbelief and then the awe inspiring realisation that something almost from another world actually exists in ours. Imagine William Shakespeare writing Hamlet using a laptop. Surely a ridiculous proposition he was about 300 years too early for that. He didn’t but today’s […]

Episode25:Science and Religion

Science is the product of human intellect, creativity and imagination. It helps answers the profoundest of all questions. Where did life come from? How old is the Earth? What is the structure of the universe? How did humans come to be? As the history of science shows, as it progresses so does the nature, accuracy […]

Episode24:Telescopes before Galileo? Part 2

Chris Lord  of Blackpool & District Astronomical Society continues the story of the telescope leading up to its use by Galileo for astronomical observations. Ibn Sahl and Ibn al-Haythem were two scholars who during the 10th and 11th century developed the fundemental mathematical principles of refraction, reflection and dispersion and kick started the science of […]

Episode23:Telescopes before Galileo? Part 1

Hans Lipperhey’s patent application in the Netherlands for a telescope was formally denied on 2nd October 1608. Nonetheless, it is that individual, that place and that date which history associates with the invention of the telescope. Most of us are aware of the fundamental astronomical discoveries Galileo went on to make with it in the […]

Episode22:Interstellar Dust

As episode 21 indicated, the power of science fiction to motivate the imagination is perhaps as strong as science itself. 1957 is known for the launch of Sputnik but it was also the year that the scientist Fred Hoyle published a science fiction novel called The Black Cloud. One of its readers in Italy would […]

Episode21:Science, Science Fiction and Astrobiology

Professor Mark Brake from the University of Glamorgan has an eclectic interest. An academic, broadcaster and author of science and popular science books, he is the organising chair for the the third conference of the Astrobiology Society of Britain: ASB3: The Living Universe, will take place in Cardiff between July 1-4, 2008. We spoke about […]

Episode20:European City of Culture – Astronomy in Liverpool

As the European city of Culture, Liverpool has more than its fair share of activities this year. Many have an astronomy connection. In today’s episode Andy Newsam from Liverpool John Moores University, Joanne Coleman from the British Association for the Advancement of Science talks about the Science Festival between 6th and 11th of September and […]

Episode19:Astronomy Online

There are many ways to participate in and learn about astronomy online. In today’s episode, three examples of how the web is being used to share resources and build communities around Science http://www.sciencefile.org Space http://www.space.co.uk and Astronomy http://www.fedastro.org.uk . Many astronomical societies are preparing or have already completed a program of speakers for the 2008/9 […]

Episode18:European Space Agency

Since the days of Sputnik and Apollo, Space technology has matured to an extent that it is almost a routine commercial activity. China, India and Japan are well established players in addition to USA and Russia. Next year the Virgin Galactic will embark on space tourism. Since its establishment in 1975, the European Space Agency […]

Episode17:Gamma Ray Astronomy

As the most energetic photons, gamma rays are rare, difficult to observe, require special telescopes & detectors, and not many of them make it to the surface of the earth anyway. So why is gamma ray astronomy important? Its not an area of astronomy that amateurs usually dip even their big toe in and something […]

Episode16:Astronomy – A cultural perspective

You can’t think of Darwin without Wallace, Laurel without Hardy. In UK astronomy there is no more an enduring and familiar partnership than Henbest and Couper. Nigel and Heather have been writing, broadcasting, supporting and publicising astronomy for decades. Their most recent project is a series of daily radio programs for BBC Radio4 called Cosmic […]

Episode15:Astrobiology. How did life start on Earth?

Astrobiology is the study of life outside the earth. Paradoxically, it is advanced by understanding how life started here on earth. More about Astrobiology in the UK at the Astrobiology Society’s website. In the famous Miller Urey experiment to discover the origin of life, the experiment did not result in primitive life but succeeded in […]


After a 7 year journey, Cassini/ Huygens arrived at Saturn in 2004 and Huygens landed on the surface of Titan on January 14th 2005. The only moon within the solar system known to have a substantial atmosphere. On Monday 3rd of July 1989 it was possible to study the atmosphere of Titan from here on […]


You may have seen the report from the British UK Space Exploration Working Group suggesting that Britain can get two British Astronauts to the Space station costing less than £75m over 5 years by commercially engaging the Russian Soyuz program rather than the annual £60m cost of going with ESA, or indeed developing a British […]

Episode12:Journey to the Moon

Posted: April 2008 July 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing in the Sea of Tranquillity on the moon. In today’s episode – assistant director & co-producer Chris Riley talks about the recent film “In the Shadow of the Moon” which recounts that period and someone who was a part of it – […]


Its that time of year. Summer time has arrived but not yet.. the summer. Local astronomical societies all over the country are winding down from the previous season and preparing for the next. In today’s episode a little more about two individuals who have been on the speaker list for many astronomical societies. Martin Lunn […]

Episode10:Astronomy and Space Broadcasters

The veteran BBC aerospace correspondent Reg Turnill recalls some of the key moments that he personally covered during the height of the space race. Reg has recorded his eye witness account in his book The Moonlandings. Chris Lintott one of the authors of Bang! and a co-presenters on Sky at Night far too young to […]

Episode9:Early Astronomers

About 20 years after Galileo used the telescope for astronomy, William Crabtree and Jeremiah Horrocks used it to observe a transit of Venus in 1639. Carl Barry and Lilian Fletcher researched documented this unique event. If you missed it a 19mb video here. Former executive Paul Allen (Allen Telescope Array) from Microsoft and Wayne Rosing […]

Episode8:The Astronomy Centre

The Astronomy Centre: If you head east out of the Lancashire town of Bacup along the A681 towards the Yorkshire town of Todmorden, a couple of miles up a snaking undulating road, nestled amongst the green hills, wild flowers and the sheep you see on your left two large astronomical domes. This is the home […]

Episode7:Profile #1

Profile #1: First of occasional episodes profiling individuals who have made a unique contribution in amateur astronomy. In this episode three diverse individuals. Ken Willoughby from West Yorkshire Astronomical Society bringing Apollo astronauts to Pontefract. Astronomy Now’s Mark Armstrong supernova discoverer and Chris Marriott of Skymap.

Episode6:Amateur Astronomy- the next generation?

Amateur Astronomy – the next generation? In the 1960s and 70s astronomy did not have the competition from computer games, internet and TV. That apparently is what is keeping the young people away from participating in astronomy. Guy Fennimore, secretary of the Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA), suggests that astronomy is not the only victim […]

Episode5:Studying Astronomy

Studying Astronomy :Peter Thomas from the the University of London Observatory, Stewart Eyres from the University of Central Lancashire and Ulrich Kolb from the Open University discuss some of the options available to amateur astronomers who want a little more structured approach in learning about their hobby.


Astrophotography: Terry Platt from Starlight Express talks about his early days of vidicon and photo multiplier tubes. Terry describes how his passion in astronomy in the 60s resulted in Starlight Express. About 6 years ago, Steve Chambers came up with a nifty way to rewire a Phillips Toucam webcam so that it could be used […]

Episode3:Astrofest 2008-Part 2

David Levy recounts the momentous event of July 1994 and talks about his current preoccupations. Did you know he has his own pod cast called letstalkstars. David Paul talks about the Campaign for Dark Skies which was established in 1989, what progress has been made and how the amateur astronomy community can still contribute. Alison […]

Episode2:Astrofest 2008 Part 1

Astrofest is a unique event for amateur astronomers for the UK and Europe. Keith Cooper, Astronomy Now’s editor provides some background to how and when it started. Nik Szymanek an accomplished astrophotographer shares his experiences of capturing some spectacular images. See some of them on his website. Dr Allan Chapman talks about the tradition of […]

Episode1:Amateur Astronomy in the 21st Century

Amateur Astronomy in the 21st Century: Will Comet 17P Holmes brighten again? Is an asteroid heading for an impact on a Mars? Who was the founder of amateur astronomy? How amateur are amateur astronomers these days? The very first episode of AstrotalkUK. A discussion between Tony O’Sullivan, Ken Irving, from Salford Astronomical Society and Chris […]