RSC Chilterns and Middlesex Section Humphry Davy Public Lecture

5 March 2015, London, United Kingdom

Space: The Ups and Downs of Modern Exploration by Dr Helen Sharman OBE

Space travel, whether human or not, has become so commonplace that most rocket launches pass unnoticed by the world's media. It usually takes a catastrophe like the break up of the VSS Enterprise over the Mojave Desert in 2014, the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003 or the catalogue of adrenaline-fuelled problem-solving activities that saved Apollo 13 to ignite public interest. Compared to the complexity of space missions, failure rates are amazingly low. However, the number of astronaut deaths is high for a mode of travel that is about to be commonplace and satellite insurance policies are often too costly for organisations to include them in their budgets. Has space travel lost its way?

Our understanding of physics and chemistry enables humans to continue to explore, no longer being confined to the limits of a planet. But pulling together all the sciences and combining with engineering and technology means we can do this relatively safely and in reasonable comfort. People are solving astronautical problems on a daily basis, sometimes disasters are averted because specialists are able to pool knowledge and work at the intersection of traditional subject areas. This talk will explore some of the issues and how they are solved, looking forward to a time when space travel will be a joyful (and safe) experience for many.

The Royal Society of Chemistry

Library, The Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BA, United Kingdom

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Royal Society of Chemistry and Chilterns & Middlesex Local Section
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