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September 1st 2003 meeting of the EAAS

 

We had an excellent turnout , the third highest since the Member's Book began in December 1998, and we also had a lot of new members join the Society. Our ten minute slot was presented by member Philip Baxter and this generated a lot of interest with the beginners, and it's something we hope to continue every month in a effort to try and learn novices to astronomy their way around the sky. Philip gave a 10 minute talk on Andromeda. He covered it's history, how to find it in the sky, all the beautiful Messier objects around Andromeda and viewing oppurtunities in the next few months. Everyone got a star chart to take home to try to find the constellations highlighted for themselves.

The guest speaker at the first EAAS meeting was Mr Derek Heatly of the IAA and EAAS, who spoke on "At the Edge of Space".

Derek has just returned from a trip of a lifetime to Moscow where he flew to the edge of space (84,000ft) in a Mig jet, becoming the first Ulsterman to experience the thrill of weightlessness. Firstly, he flew with a group to 35,000ft where he experienced ten 30-sec periods of Zero-G and was able to float around the cabin in weightlessness. The aeroplane climbs to a high altitude and then dives for around 30 seconds with a controlled descent so that the passengers can experience weightlessness and do acrobatics just like in space. A video presentation and commentary was given in which we saw "The Flight of the Ulsterman" :-) Next day he flew from the Zhukovsky Air Base in a Cold War 1960's Mig jet to experience what it's like at the edge of space.

He said, " the thrill of seeing the sun in a black sky was unbelievable, but you can only stay at that peak altitude for literally one minute, with a brief photo opportunity to take pictures of the thin blue ribbon of the Earth's atmosphere and the deep purple sky, it's an awesome sight and one I will never forget". For those brief seconds Derek and his pilot were higher up than anyone else---bar the astronauts on the International Space Station! Also shown was how Derek withstood a 3G turn in a MIG fighter and one final "magic moment" when the pilot handed over the controls to Derek on the way down.

Derek paid an extra $500 to have his adventure captured on video, which he showed at the meeting. As well as having copies of the video for sale, he also was signing photographs for his favourite charity, Leukaemia Research. Derek has been doing parachute jumps and many other things all in aid of Leukaemia research and space travel is his latest venture. On sale at the meeting, Derek had space memorabilia including russian space cloth used in astronaut suits, flight patches, videos of the flight, signed photos and Mars meteorites. If you which to buy any of these items, please contact the EAAS Chairman below.


Derek says that he will be going back next year to do the Zero-G flight again...

 

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