It was a simple routine but one I looked forward to every month. As Patrick wasn’t on email I’d print out a copy of each new edition of Odyssey and post it to him, along with a covering letter. More often than not I’d get a phone call or thank-you note by way of reply: “Patrick, here. How are things at the BIS?” His loss struck home most forcefully when I realised I could no longer reach out to him this way every month. There would be no more letters to, or from, Patrick.
When I first met him, and he knew of the challenges facing the Society, he immediately asked: “What can we do?” That response eventually morphed into Patrick’s Picnic, an extraordinary act of generosity in which he opened his home to members of the BIS and their families for the day. It’s impossible to imagine other media celebrities (none of whom will ever match Patrick’s luminosity) doing anything remotely similar.
Patrick was devoted to the BIS for more or less his entire adult life and it’s important to remember that. To remember that he was the first editor of Spaceflight, and that he continued to support the Society right to the very end. And it is important to remember Patrick over time, not just in the days and weeks since the news broke that he had passed quietly in his sleep at his beloved home, Farthings. So expect Odyssey to be writing about Patrick a year from now, and to carry on writing about him well after that, just as we have been remembering Arthur C. Clarke, Eric Burgess, and Ken Gatland.
I don’t know if Patrick had a favourite planet in the solar system but it’s tempting to think this might have been Mars. And it is to Mars that our thoughts also turn in this month’s Odyssey as we talk to Kim Stanley Robinson, a man whose novels will forever be linked with this tantalising planet. Why is Mars so tantalising? Because in Stan’s own words: “…we are still those animals who survived the Ice Age, and looked up at the night sky in wonder, and told stories. And Mars has never ceased to be what it was to us from our very beginning – a great sign, a great symbol, a great power.”
Also featured in this month’s issue is the work of an artist who provided covers for several of Stan’s books, the late Peter Elson. Peter’s painting Blue Mars provides this month’s masthead and we would urge all of our readers to visit the site set up to ensure that Peter’s extraordinary body of work is not forgotten: www.peterelson.co.uk
Patrick Moore knew our neighbouring planets better than anyone and I’d like to think he is finally free to roam those worlds at will, to pick and choose where he wants to go, free of the physical constraints that kept him from his telescopes in his final years. Now that he is gone it will be impossible to look at the night sky and not think of Patrick. Perhaps it always was.
Mark Stewart, FBIS
BIS Honorary Archival Librarian/Editor (Odyssey)
If you have not yet received your copy of Odyssey 24, please contact Mark via the email address given above.