Saturday, 8 January 2011

Here's to a great 2011

I'm still here folks. This winter has been a bad one for me health wise, and for most of my close friends. The flu has been knocking us out one by one. The unexplained thing is that it seems to make no difference if you had the seasonal vaccine or not; you still get it. Some rogue strain that the vaccine manufacturers didn't anticipate? Perhaps but whatever, for the first time in about three weeks I feel almost back to normal; well enough to make one in for a bit of a jam session tomorrow afternoon in a local pub. I'll see if I can take the pace. Next up for the band is The Fleece Inn at Elland (28th Jan) which I remember from years ago as a top real-ale pub, though I haven't visited for a long time. I hope it has kept it's traditions.

Playing bass is one thing I want to keep involved with this year, it's such good fun and the band is really starting to gel. Live gigs are the best rehearsal of all so I hope we'll be playing every fortnight at least, by Springtime. But my other big fascination, as many people will know, is with space exploration and 2011 looks set to be a good year.

It all starts tomorrow with the Mars Express spacecraft's close (111 km) flyby of the Martian moon Phobos. This is one of a series of encounters to study and map this small moon and will provide invaluable data for the upcoming Russian Phobos Grunt mission which intends to land on Phobos and return samples to Earth. Phobos Grunt is currently set to launch this November and reach Phobos in 2013.

February sees the Stardust/NExT flyby of comet Tempel 1. This should be interesting as the comet was visited in 2005 by Deep Impact which, as the name suggests, launched an impactor to stir up the comet's surface. NExT will re-examine the crater to look for any changes over the last few years.

Next up is the MESSENGER spacecraft (The Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging mission) which will enter orbit around Mercury on 18 March with a (Earth) year-long primary mission of mapping the surface (in 3-D) and studying the planet's magnetic and gravity fields. Expect some great images, though I am amazed they can can keep the craft cool enough so close to the Sun.

In August the Dawn spacecraft arrives at asteroid Vesta, the second largest object in the asteroid belt after Ceres which Dawn will move on to study in 2015. Dawn will spend 7 months orbiting Vesta recording images and spectrographic data.

Not last, and far from least, sometime in autumn may see the launch of the most ambitious project ever sent to Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is a rover the size of a small car (2.8 meters long) and packed with scientific instruments. Follow the link to see the 8-point mission objectives which include everything from looking for signs of life to determining the processes of water and carbon dioxide cycling (in other words, Martian weather).

OK, the MSL was the last for now, I'm running out of steam and a bottle of Black Sheep Ale keeps singing to me from the fridge. 2011 looks good so far, later in the year I want to be back out in my vegetable plot and greenhouse growing tasty things to eat and I also plan to make some homebrew beer, an old hobby which I have neglected in recent years.

So cheers all! May the coming year be at least as fun for you as I hope it will be for me.


dave hambidge said...

Here's to a busy, healthy, happy year!

Andy Holroyd said...

Thanks Dave, same to you and Hazel. Hope you had a good break over Christmas.

Kai Roberts said...

Happy new year, Andy. Sorry to hear that you've been under the weather a lot. I may come and check out your band at The Fleece on the 28th. Real ale isn't it's only tradition though. There's lots of fascinating history and folklore there which I've written about on my blog.

Andy Holroyd said...

All the best Kai, nice to hear from you. It would be great to see you at the Fleece but don't expect to chill out, we will hammer you relentlessly with ancient pop/rock.

I'm intrigued to hear about your writings on the Fleece and will have a read asap.

We must keep in touch, but I'm usually the anti-social bastard so I take the blame.

Have fun, whatever happens!