#42 – December 2015

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The Discussion: In this Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy contrived episode we look back over the movie The Martian, meeting Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, we gloss over the Bayesian statistics in Jen’s data analysis work and hear about a mathematics-based nightmare that’s been keeping Jen awake but should have mathematicians rolling in the aisles!

The News: This month we revisit that alien megastructure around a distant star with an unusual light curve and reveal what alien signatures SETI have discovered. We take a look at the possible future of cheap access to space as British Aerospace buy a stake in the SABRE engine designed to power spaceplanes of the future, and we finish off with the truly incredible measurements of Mars atmosphere conducted by NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft to reveal how much atmosphere Mars is losing on an annual basis.

The Interview: This month we wrap the whole show around our interview with Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot Al Worden recorded at this year’s Cosmiccon. We discuss:

Anecdotes from test pilot school in England

Tales of the Harrier and Concorde test pilots

Practical jokes

Riding a Saturn V rocket

Finding organic matter in lunar orbit

Views from 1.5 miles above the mountains of the moon

The history of the moon and the Apollo 15 landing site, Hadley Rille

The bliss of being alone in lunar orbit

The views of space from the far and dark portions behind the moon

The vastness of the universe

Al Worden’s view on UFOs, ancient aliens, numerology and the bible

How to explore further out in space

The stupidity of the design of NASA’s next generation spacecraft

The 5 Minute Concept: We continue our series of back to basics 5 Minute Concepts as Paul takes a look at perhaps the most important piece of hardware in amateur astronomy – no, not the telescope itself, but the mount. As we ask AZ or EQ?

Q&A: Listeners’ questions via email, Facebook & Twitter take us on a journey into the astronomy issues that have always plagued our understanding or stretched our credulity. This month Jen honours the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s General Relativity with a beginner’s crash course, a bit of mythbusting and answers:

What’s inside a black hole? John Barrie from Swansea, Wales via email

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