Moon and Mars: 50 Years of New Frontiers
Jonathan Nally loves to look at the stars, the sky, and this week, to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
It's just a year since Curiosity rover touched down on Mars and for Jonathan an "awesome moment" to be shared.
Jonathan's new book, "Moon & Mars: 50 Years of New Frontiers" is being released by WP in 22 countries to share the moment when the NASA craft flawlessly landed on the Red Planet, and started beaming images back to Earth.
Jonathan was first touched and inspired by one of the early Apollo Missions nearly 50 years ago. "I remember going outside with my family to watch anApollo spacecraft go overhead. And I remember reading magazines in the early 1970s that had stories about a new kind of spacecraft, a space shuttle, that would one day ferry astronauts into orbit.
"Now, the space shuttle has come and gone."
Jonathan is an award winning science writer and broadcaster with a special skill in explaining the mysteries of our unfolding universe.
"With Curiosity and Mars and the images being transmitted we enter a new phase," he explains.
Times might be tough but Jonathan feels resources devoted to space exploration Is money well spent.
"I'm often asked to justify the expense of space flight and space exploration. Wouldn't all that money be better spent here on Earth?
"Well, the answer is, of course, that the money is spent on Earth - not a single dollar is spent in space.
"Every dollar spent on space exploration goes into someone's pay packet each fortnight. The Apollo program, alone, employed more than 300,000 people.
" That kind of investment over 50 years has boosted technology and scientific understanding, developed whole new industries, benefited fields as diverse as medicine, mining, the environment, communication, weather forecasting, and more.
"All of these, you'll notice, are here on Earth and not in outer space."
But it is much more than practical, dollar and cents.
"Space exploration continues to bring us intangible benefits every day, every hour. Our species is equipped with an insatiable sense of curiosity. We always have been explorers. It's in our very nature.
" How disappointing and dull it would be if were we to confine our curiosity to this one planet, Earth, while a vast world of excitement and wonder is as never before within our grasp, 'out there'."
Jonathan expects the unexpected as we push further into the new frontiers. "Overturning old ideas, developing new understandings, showing us what an amazing, dynamic, evolving cosmos we are part of."
We asked him to share his seven "awesome" space moments of the last 50 years. Do you remember where you were for some or all of them?
1. Sputnik 1, 4 October 1957. Launch of the first artificial satellite and start of the Space Race.
2. Vostock 1, 12 April 1961. Launch of Yuri Gagarin, first person to go into space.
3. Apollo 11, 20 July 1969. First crewed landing on the moon. How amazing that was! The whole Earth stopped to watch and marvel at what humankind had done.
4. STS-1, 12 April 1981. Launch of the first space shuttle flight, 20 years to the day since Yuri Gagarin's flight.
5. Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune, 25 August 1989. This one is special to me as I had the good fortune to be on-hand at NASA's tracking station at Tidinbilla, near Canberra, Australia, as it happened. Watching the first pictures coming back from billions of kilometres away was simply breathtaking.
6. Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, July 1994. The comet had fragmented into many pieces, all of them headed for Jupiter. I had the privilege of being invited aboard NASA's flying observatory, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, to witness some of the impacts.
7. Curiosity rover, 6 August 2012. The flawless touchdown of NASA's largest-ever rover, using an untried landing technique was thrilling. All the more so because we could experience it via the internet and share in the tension of mission control.
Plus Jonathan Nally's "awesome" Mars discoveries of the past year and five key Mars facts:
1. Mars habitable. Analysis of rocks from the landing site shows the Red Planet once had conditions suitable for the presence of microbial life. Whether it had life or not is an open question.
2. Mars flowing water. Long suspected to have had rivers. Curiosity has discovered a dry, ancient streambed not far from where it touched down.
1. A suitable home? Other than Earth, Mars is considered the "most habitable" of all the planets in the solar system. Not too hot, nor too cold, a rocky surface, with at least some water in form of ice.
2. Mars changes. Evidence is the Red Planet was warm and wet in the past. Now it is cold and dry. Why it changed is one of the main thrusts of the latest investigations.
Jonathan Nally - Source: ABC
3. Don't breathe the air. Mars' atmosphere is totally carbon dioxide. Only about 1/100th as thick as Earth.
4. Dusty nightmare. Occasionally, a huge dusts storm develops and covers the planet. Also there's mini tornadoes called, "dust devils".
5. It's a hard place to reach. More than half of all missions to Mars have failed. For a variety of reasons. Some have disappeared without a trace.
.Moon & Mars: 50 Years Of New Frontiers by Jonathan Nally - www.wilkinsonpublishing.com.au