Lancashire Aeronautics and Space Administration

by wjw on June 3, 2008

So after knocking off work late last night, I poured myself a well-deserved margarita and started flipping channels on the satellite dish to see if there was anything on worth watching. (Most worthwhile programs are on after midnight, I’ve found.)

So I clicked onto the Beeb, and there was Top Gear, which is an English program in which high-performance automobiles are tested, for example, by being made to drag-race against jet aircraft.

On this particular show, the hosts had teamed up with a group of British rocket geeks to, well, start their own space program. They had converted a tiny English car, the Reliant Robin, into a space shuttle, and were about to find out whether they could launch and recover it. Power was provided by six 40960 NS O hybrid rocket motors giving a maximum thrust of 8 metric tons. This was going to be the largest private rocket launch in Europe.

The show was freakin’ riveting, no pun intended. Could a successful liftoff be achieved from a weapons testing range in Lancashire? Would the solid rocket boosters successfully detach, would the Reliant achieve separation from the external fuel tank and then glide to a successful landing at a nearby aerodrome?

Bear in mind that this whole thing was done on the budget of a weekly television series.

I don’t want to spoil anything by giving away the ending. But here’s the video.

It looks to the naive and gullible observer, like me, that Rocket Ship Galileo-style private space programs are closer than they might otherwise seem.

Dave Bishop June 5, 2008 at 9:12 am

Congratulations on discovering ‘Top Gear’, Walter. It has got to be the silliest, most disreputable and downright addictive show on British TV!

The main presenter, Jeremy Clarkson, is supposed to represent everything I hate: speed loving, gas-guzzling anti-environmentalism with a dash of celebrity worship – and he’s a smug, sarcastic git to boot – but I wouldn’t miss a show and often find myself crying with laughter at his, and his fellow presenters, stupid antics!

dubjay June 5, 2008 at 8:34 pm

Well, yeah. It is not normally my practice to entertain myself by watching alpha males drive cars I’ll never be able to afford, but somehow ‘Top Gear’ manages to elude my resentment, or at least divert it.

It helps that they’ve got a fair sense of how absurd their own program is. Lamborghini vs. Eurofighter? Reliant turned space shuttle? You gotta laugh.

Bakkevold June 14, 2008 at 11:43 am

Top gear is great. Even for me who has no interest in fast cars. Try to find their winter olympics special. Where they use rockets to jump a car from a skijump in Norway.
Top Gear is in many ways the sillier, non-educational, down right dangerous version of Mythbusters…

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