» References «

» Space Agencies «
There are a growing number of countries that are setting up space agencies. Information on them can be readily obtained on the internet. Among the most important are:

  • ESA - The European Space Agency
  • NASA - The National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • ROSCOSMOS - The Russian Federal Space Agency - successor to the Soviet Space Programme
  • CNSA - China National Space Administration
  • JAXA - Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency
  • ISRO - Indian space Research Organisation
  • CSA - Canadian Space Agency is closely related to ESA
  • Others - Many individual European nations have their own space organisations which are closely associated with the European Space Agency

» ESA - The European Space Agency «
The European Space Agency has contributed enormously to the work of space research. Among some of its most important missions were:

  • The Hubble Telescope jointly with NASA.
  • The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory jointly with NASA.
  • The landing of a probe (the Huygens Probe) on Titan as part of the joint Cassini/Huygens NASA/ESA Mission to the Saturn System.
  • The orbiting research vessels round Mars and Venus.
  • The Cluster probes.
  • The Rosetta Mission to a comet including a lander.
  • The Plank Mission to explre the cosmic microwave background – to determine the large scale properties of the universe with high precision.
  • And many many more missions already carried out successfully and many more to come.

The European State Agency has 22 Member States. The national bodies responsible for space in these countries sit on ESA’s governing Council: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Canada also sits on the Council and takes part in some projects under a Cooperation Agreement. Other EU states also have Cooperation Agreements with ESA, such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Lithuania and Malta. Latvia, Slovenia and Slovakia are participating in the Plan for European Cooperating States (PECS). The map on the right above gives a good idea about how far reaching the European Space Agency is in 2015.

The European Space Agency has a number of centres.  One of them at Noordwyk in the Netherlands close to the coast. Apart from its role as a scientific experimental center it holds many conferences throughout the year.  It is these pleasant surroundings that scientists from all over the world meet to discuss the progress of their work.  The photograph on the left show the main entrance to the ESTEC Building.  The photograph on the right shows the mission control centre in Darmstadt Germany.

» NASA - The National Aeronautics and Space Administration «
NASA is one of the oldest and best known organisations of space research in the world and must be credited with its pioneering work in space research. Although it is administered by the USA, NASA extends its embrace to astronauts and scientists from all over the world.  This is exemplified by the crew of a space shuttle launched in 2006 the space shuttle mission STS-116 Discovery. NASA has contributed enormously to the work of space research. Among some of its most important missions were:

  • The Hubble Space Telescope in conjunction with ESA.
  • The Moon Landings.
  • Numerous landings of robotic vehicles to Mars.
  • The Pioneer Mission.
  • The Voyager Missions to the outer Solar Systems.
  • The Gallileo Mission to Jupiter and its Moons.
  • The Cassini Mission to the Saturn System in conjunction with ESA.
  • The Horizon Mission to Pluto and theKuiper Belt.
  • And many many more missions already carried out successfully and many more to come.

» Space Shuttles «
For many years the American Space Shuttles took off for the space station. We must salute the work of the many brave people who risked their lives in joining the crew of the space shuttle on its journey to the International Space Station. Tribute must be paid to the two unsucceful space shuttles which were destroyed with the loss of the lives of their crews.

On 28 January 1986 Challenger broke up 73 seconds after take-of.

On 1 February 2003, Columbia  disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere.

Nicholas Patrick

Bill Oefelein

Mark Polanski 

Joan Higginbotham

Robert Curbeam

Christer Fugelsang

Sunita Williams

Thomas Reiter

The illustration above shows pictures of the crew of the space shuttle Discovery which returned home on 22 December 2006.

The European Space Agency Astronaut Thomas Reiter from Germany was brought back from the space, while Sunita Williams took his place. She is an American citizen of Indian descent and has been widely written about in the Indian press - both in English and in Gujarati her native language. The BBC World Service reported on 20 December that she had taken a token statue of Sri Ganeshi and a picture of her Jack Russell terrier with her into the space station.  The Shuttle returned on the morning of 22 December 2006 to its base in Florida.

» The Russian Federal Space Agency «
The Russians are still very active in space research despite the limited funds made available.  Many of the European Space Agency satellites and space research vessels are launched from the Baikonur  Rocket site in Kazakstan.    Since 1993 Russia has rented Baikonur from Kazakstan. Baikonur has been used for all Soviet and CIS manned launches and for most lunar, planetary and geostationary orbit launches. This historic cosmodrome, built on the barren steppes of Kazakhstan, is still one of the largest space launch facilities even after nearly 50 years. It has also be largely used by the European Space Agency. It should be remembered that the Russians were successful iin being the first to put a man in space. They were also very successful in actually landing vessels on the surface of Venus which lasted just long enough to take pictures on the surface before being destroyed by the fierce heat and pressure.

» CNSA - The Chinese National Space Administration «
The Chinese have a very active space progrmma and since 2013 have launched 10 people into space. The Chinese have plans for setting up a colony on the moon and sending a manned mission to Mars.

» Observatories «

  • Mauna Kea Observatories:
    The University of Hawaii has published a web-site dealing with one of the most important observatory sites on top of the Mauna Kea - 'The White Mountain'.
    Mauna Kea Observatories Website
    Mauna Kea Web Cams
  • The European Southern Observatory (ESO):
    The European Southern Observatory would be better described an observatory complex since it operates a number of telescopes in different parts of the Atacama Desert in Chile. The first site is at a 2400 metre high mountain called La Silla 600 kilometres north of Santiago de Chile. It is equipped with several optical telescopes with mirror diameters of up to 3.6 metres. The 3.5-m New Technology Telescope (NTT) was the first in the world to have a computer-controlled main mirror. La Silla remains one of the scientifically most productive observing sites in the world. 2600 m high Paranal Site with the Very Large Telescope array (VLT) is the flagship facility of European astronomy.  It consists of 4 telescopes and is 2,600 meters above sea level. The VLT is a most unusual telescope, based on the latest technology. It is not just one, but an array of four telescopes, each with a main mirror of 8.2-m diameter. With one such telescope, images of celestial objects as faint as magnitude 30 have been obtained in a one-hour exposure. This corresponds to seeing objects that are four billion times fainter than what can be seen with the naked eye. One of the most exciting features of the VLT is the possibility to use it as a giant optical interferometer. This is done by combining the light from several of the telescopes, including one or more of four 1.8-m moveable Auxiliary Telescopes, three of which are now in operation. In the interferometric mode, one can reach the resolution on the sky that would be obtained with a telescope of the size of the separation between the most distant of the combined mirrors. ESO has plans to build even larger telescopes in the future such as the Extremely Large Telescope. One ESO project which is already underway in conjunction with Japan and North America is the ALMA project.
    Click here for ESO Website
    Click here for wonderful videos of the observatory complex

» Museums «
There are many excellent Museums which not only have wonderful displays but carry out extensive scientific research an deliver lectures to the public.

  • Natural History Museum South Kensington London:
    This is a wonderful Museum. It has an active programme of lectures and special displays. Full details are given in the website which is updated monthly. One look at the picture shown on the left above and which introduces its website gives an idea of what a vibrant place it is.
  • Science Museum South Kensington London:
    The Science Museum tells the history of Western science, technology and medicine from 1700 to the present day through its collection of more than 300,000 original objects. The science museum deals largely with science and engineering leaving the geology and the life sciences to be dealt with by the Natural history Museum. Like the other museum it has special exhibitions and lectures. It also has an IMAX cinema.

» Scientific Organisations «

» Some Useful Websites «


A number of societies and organisations produce webcasts which may be viewed like normal television programmes at the time at which a lecture is given and weeks or even years after the lecture. Some of the most important are:

  • ESA
  • NASA
  • The Royal Society
  • Gresham College
  • TED lectures

» Gresham College «
Gresham College was founded by Sir Thomas Gresham in 1597 and is an independently funded educational institution based in Barnard's Inn, Holborn, in the centre of London. It has a comprehensive programme of free public lectures throughout the year on a wide series of topics including astronomy, mathematics and biology.  Some lectures are held at Barnard's Inn Hall and others at the Museum of London.  A Picture of Barnard's Inn Hall and the Court outside the hall are shown on the left. Many of the meetings are webcasted and can be viewed on line at the time of the meeting or afterwards.

» Large Hadron Collider «
One of the most spectacular experiments of the century is the investigation of what the universe is made of and how it came into existence. Two beams of protons in opposite directions are accelerated close to the speed of light in a 27 kilometer tunnel beneath the ground under the Swiss French frontier. The collisions create a whole host of other particles – for example the Higgs Boson which are detected in four immense detectors. In the Spring of 2015 the velocity and energy of the proton beams were increased to search for particles that may exist in theory. Soon results may find new wonders of physics.

Ray Goodwin

Somewhere there are mountains
Glistening in the snow
Somewhere there are mountains
That we shall never know

Somewhere there are rivers
Flowing fast and free
Somewhere there are rivers
That we can never see

Somewhere there are oceans
And sun drenched island sands
Forests full of creatures
In vastly distant lands

Somewhere there’s a planet
Beneath an alien star
The people watch our tiny sun
And wonder where we are

One day perhaps we’ll find them
Across the void of space
Perhaps through ways as yet unknown
We’ll meet them face to face

The author of this web site Ray Goodwin holds B.Sc. Degrees from London University in Chemistry, Geology and Physiology and an M.Sc. in Biochemistry. He has spent most of his professional life teaching in Colleges of Technology. On his retirement he has entered the fields of astronomy, astrochemistry, astrobiology and space sciences. He has spent a great deal of his retirement in visiting amateur astronomy societies and in attending European Space Agency Symposia in ESTEC in the Netherlands and other scientific conferences in England and Sweden. He regularly attends the yearly European Astrofest in South Kensington London and other meetings in the UK. He has written scientific articles and given a number of lectures on diverse scientific subjects.

Readers of this web site are invited to e-mail the author ( ray@lifeinthecosmos.com) and discuss their opinions of the topics dealt with and suggest any changes which they think may be helpful.

Life in the Cosmos Website
Version 01.00 - April 20, 2015.