Working for the European Space Agency really is rocket science according to one former scientist who spent his career in the field.
Geoff Saunders told Dorking U3A members at their annual meeting in May that the agency was one of Britain’s best kept secrets. The work was a collaboration between Europe, Russia, Japan and America and was a huge undertaking.
He said that hundreds of thousands of people were employed on the work which had so far sent 550 people into space.
British astronaut Tim Peake was currently on the space station orbiting the earth. Geoff explained that in real terms the station was barely above the earth. Even GPS satellites, which send information to such things as sat navs in cars, were further away.
The European Space Agency has already sent missions to Mars where scientists had gathered clear information that there was once water, which would be vital for the development of life. They had also devised a project to chase and orbit a comet.
Geoff described this as particularly difficult as the gravity on comets was so weak that a person jumping off the surface would float into space forever. Therefore to land a craft on the surface had taken precise engineering and great skill. Photographs returned to earth had shown that comets were nothing like they had been imagined.
Current plans included sending a rocket to Jupiter to look at the moons. A craft leaving in 2022 would arrive at the planet eight years later.