Space – As it should have been…?


Speaker: Mat Irvine
Start Time: 7pm
End Time: 8:30pm
Date: 22 February 2012

Location: BIS, 27/29 South Lambeth Road, Vauxhall, London, SW8 1SZ

Mat IrvineIt’s a somewhat sobering thought to realise that the Apollo Missions – magnificent achievements that they were – were really a dead-end. This is especially emphasised by the fact that the last mission, Apollo 17, was 1972, and that was it; human crews have not been back since. Personally I have to put the blame fair and square on President Kennedy as it was he who said in that speech of 1961, “We will put a Man on the Moon by the end of the decade…” At that point the Americans were still putting a lone man into low Earth orbit, and the ideas of Lunar travel were, if not in the far future, certainly in the medium – there were other priorities. But their President had given the American aerospace companies an ultimatum, so ways had to be found to achieve this goal ‘within the decade’. Consequently plans that were reasonably well established had to be put on long-term hold, if not abandoned all together, and Project Apollo was born.

But what if President Kennedy had not made that speech in 1961? Instead the ideas that were being proposed on the way “Space – As It Should Be” – had gone ahead? This talk looks at many of the plans that such scientists and engineers, such as Wernher von Braun and Willie Ley, plus visionary artists like Chesley Bonestell and Rolf Klep were proposing. If these had happened, “Space – As It Would Have Turned Out”, would almost certainly have been completely different.

This talk is based around one of Mat’s particular interests – the early spacecraft designs that were being proposed post-WWII. This also links in with his speciality in models of spacecraft, as many of these early von Braun and similar designs were made as model kits, as early as the mid-1950s.

About Mat Irvine

Mat started building model spaceships – as far as he recalls…? – age around six, out of modelling clay and match-sticks! This developed into slightly more sophisticated creations, and a lasting interest in astronomy and space travel.

He joined BBC Television News in the UK just as the Apollo Missions were at their peak, and devised a number of model set-ups to illustrate the Missions. He then moved to the BBC Visual Effects Department where he spent the next 20 years or so working on a variety of programmes. These included both science fiction, ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Blake’s 7’, and science fact with ‘Tomorrow’s World’, ‘QED’, ‘Horizon’, and ‘The Sky at Night’. Also the ‘space studios’ for such as Apollo-Soyuz, Viking and the first Space Shuttle launches.

Mat regularly appeared ‘in front of cameras’ for the Saturday morning children’s series, ‘Multicoloured Swap Shop’ and ‘Saturday Super Store’, talking and explaining about space missions and special effects. There have also been appearances on a number of other programmes, one of the most recent being the 50th anniversary of ‘The Sky at Night’.

He directed one segment of The BBC-1 series, Future Fantastic, titled ‘Starman’, and co-produced and co-presenting the design and technology series, TECHNO. He was one of the creators of TV version of Robot Wars.

Mat is a founder member of The Astronomical Society of Haringey, which had Sir Arthur C. Clarke as Patron.

He has written a large number of articles over the years, some for Spaceflight and Voyage, and over a dozen books. The latter include ‘Creating Space’ that details all the commercial model spacecraft kits, and ‘Scale Spacecraft Modelling’, which does what it says on the cover! He is co-author of the definitive book on the BBC Visual Effects Department, ‘BBC VFX’.

More at Mat Irvine’s website:

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