Book Review: Riding Rockets

Riding Rockets by Astronaut Mike Mullane.

I had just watched Space Shuttle Atlantis land for the final time. I was incredibly sad, but happy. The great ship that inspired my love of science and space had come to a final stop. I knew a bit about the shuttle program, or so I thought. It was time to read someone’s first hand experience of this mighty spaceship. Riding Rockets was the obvious place to look.

At T-6 seconds the cockpit shook violently. Engine start. This is it, I thought. In spite of my fear, I smiled. I was headed into space. It was really going to happen.

5…4…The vibrations intensified as the SSMEs sequentially came on line. Then, the warble of the master caution system grabbed us.

This superb read takes us all through Mike Mullanes life. The horrors of the initial astronaut medical exam, flying in Vietnam, his childhood and the shocking bureaucracy and management at NASA.

This book had me in fits of laughter, and I mean extreme laughter! It bought a tear to my eye, the pages discussing Challenger are particularly heart-wrenching. It had me shocked and in immense curiosity. His descriptions of life at NASA are honest, sometimes jaw-droppingly honest. This book made me appreciate the space programme a lot more, the sacrifices that have to be made, the lessons that need to be learnt.

If your interested in spaceflight, get this book, it’s a no brainer. If you want a laugh and understand what these great people do, buy this book. It is an utterly superb read. 5 stars from me! (If you want to buy it, click here, it’ll take you to the page on Amazon).

If you need some inspiration. Watch this:

My next book – My Life on Mars: The Beagle Diaries by Prof Colin Pillinger

Life looks for Life

Warning: This post is not based on much, if any, science. It is merely my opinion and pure speculation.

An article in the Guardian that someone linked to me annoyed me slightly today. It shouldn’t really have annoyed me, but I was up early for work so it did. The article was titled ‘Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilisations‘.

Now, first of all, to all you naysayers out there, there is an extremely high probability that other intelligent life (by intelligent in this respect we mean capable of deep space radio communication) exists in the galaxy and the Universe. The maths doesn’t really allow us to be the only life in the Universe.

We all think of aliens as if they’d be similar to us (two arms, two legs, and so on) but this is highly improbable. We only have two arms and two legs as a result of random events that happened in the first days of evolution. Despite what they may look life and their differences, an intelligent civilisation is surely going to have a similar morality though, right?

A more advanced civilisation than our own would be well past the point of destroying themselves, they’d have learnt the dangers as we are doing now. We’d have science and mathematics in common. Mathematics is the only universal language and it’s how we’d commune with them upon first contact. These aliens would be curious. Perhaps they’d been searching for other life in the galaxy too, they’d finally know that they aren’t alone, as would we. Even if they’d already discovered other life finding more would be an astonishing discovery.

Why would they see us as a threat (as some of the article suggests)? An advanced civilisation wouldn’t be afraid of a new, relatively under-developed civilisation emerging. They’d embrace it, right? They wouldn’t want to destroy us. They wouldn’t need resources from our tiny planet. They wouldn’t destroy us for our water, water’s one of the most common compounds in the Universe. There’s plenty of other planetary systems with far superior resources for them to use than the dwindling supplies on the Earth.

It’s all we humans have ever done, we are an exploring species. We crave to know more, to explore further. Life looks for life.