A TARDIS-shaped housing for an early prototype computer-based interactive being developed for the Powerhouse Museum in 1981. Image : Powerhouse Museum
The weekend of November 23/24, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the first screening of the iconic British science fiction television series Doctor Who First screened in the UK on November 23, 1963, the adventures of the nameless wandering time traveller and his British police-box-shaped time machine, the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space, if you’ve always wondered what that acronym meant), have been shown in countries around the world and become firmly embedded in global popular culture. In this blog post, I’ll explore a few of the Museum’s links to Doctor Who.
A 1:2 scale model of the Mars 3 spacecraft in the Powerhouse Museum collection. The model shows Mars 3 in its interplanetary cruise configuration with the lander tucked under the conical atmospheric entry heat shield at the top of the orbiter. Collection Powerhouse Museum
When the Powerhouse Museum opened in 1988, its Space-beyond this world exhibition included several replica Soviet spacecraft on loan from the then Soviet Academy of Sciences. Amongst this collection of reproduction spacecraft was a 1:2 scale model of the USSR’s Mars 3, the first spacecraft to make a successful touchdown on the surface of Mars.
The official portrait of the Apollo 1 crew. (l. to r. ) Edward White (Gemini IV, first US spacewalker on Gemini IV), Mission Commander Virgil Grissom (second US astronaut, on the Liberty Bell 7 Mercury flight, and Commander of Gemini III), and Roger Chaffee (his first space flight)
The end of January and beginning of February is always tinged with sadness for those interested in space flight, for it is within this period that the anniversaries occur of the three US space disasters that resulted in the loss of astronaut lives.
Puppet master Gerry Anderson (1929-2012) in a promotional portrait taken in 1996. Photo copyright David Finchett 1996
Readers of this blog post may not be familiar with the name Gerry Anderson, but you’ll almost certainly know his most famous television series Thunderbirds, which, after premiering in Australia in 1968, has been a staple of Saturday morning children’s television, screening almost non-stop since 1977.
Sokol KV-2 spacesuit worn by Soviet cosmonaut Gennadi Manakov in 1990. Image Courtesy Powerhouse Museum
Previously, my colleague Margaret Simpson wrote about clothing worn during Douglas Mawson’s 1911-1914 expedition in the extreme environment of Antarctica. Space is also an extreme environment that requires its explorers to wear a specialised garment for survival: the spacesuit. A spacesuit is like a miniature spacecraft in itself, designed to protect the wearer from the harsh vacuum environment of space while conducting an extravehicular activity (‘spacewalk’), or in the event that the life support system of their spacecraft fails.
Neil Armstrong’s official Apollo 11 astronaut portrait. Courtesy of NASA
In July, just after the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, I wrote a blog post about the passing of first US woman in space, Dr. Sally Ride. Little did I imagine at the time that a month later I would find myself writing another blog to commemorate the passing of the commander of that mission, Neil Armstrong.
The Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity Image courtesy NASA
At 3.32pm on Monday August 6, over a hundred people in the Museum’s Coles Theatre erupted in cheers as word came through on the live feed that we were watching from the mission control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California that NASA’s latest Mars explorer, the Curiosity rover, had landed safely.
Dr. Sally K. Ride, first American woman in space, during the STS-7 mission in June 1983. Image courtesy NASA
This week we have said goodbye to Dr. Sally K. Ride, the first American woman to make a spaceflight and a passionate promoter of science and engineering education for girls, who passed away on July 23 after a seventeen month battle with pancreatic cancer.
40 years ago, Apollo 16 landed in the Descartes region of the central lunar highlands. Image Courtesy NASA
This might sound like the set-up for a joke, but there really is a connection between the museum, NASA’s Apollo 16 mission and the USSR’s Luna 20 lunar sample recovery mission.
Launch of the Friendship 7. Image: courtesy NASA
Fifty years ago, in the early hours of February 21, 1962 (Sydney time), NASA astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, on board his Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7. Although two previous Mercury missions had flown brief sub-orbital flights, achieving orbit was an important goal for the US space program at that point in the Cold War contest of the Space Race. The Soviet Union had already launched two orbital missions in its Vostok program: the first had put Yuri Gagarin into orbit as the world’s first space traveller; the second had seen Cosmonaut Gherman Titov spend an entire day in space. To maintain credibility in the Space Race, America had to demonstrate that it, too, had the capability to put an astronaut into orbit.