Space and astronomy

Astronomy and spaceflight are two things that have kept me interested since I was 13. I wanted to read everything about it. Back then I had to do with what our newspaper would write about it and the books and magazines I could find in the library. (I went to the library weekly to read Aviation Week and Space Technology, Astronomy and Sky and Telescope).

At the ESTEC open day 2017 for the Planetary Society (photo: Adam Nielek)

Me at the Planetary Society stand at the ESTEC Open Day in 2017. It was much fun, but at the end of the day I was hoarse. (photo by Adam Nielek)

But with the Internet that all changed. At the academy (Dutch: HBO) where I was studying, back in 1992, we suddenly had a thing called SurfNet. And with it I could telnet and FTP straight to NASA's public sites. And after that things really took off and I devoured it all. Nowawdays a thing has happened, that I never would have imagined possible when I was 13: there is so much space and astronomy related news and so detailed, I can't read it all. I have to be selective. Crazy, right?

With the Internet there was another new opportunity: write about space and astronomy myself. This started in 2005, when I was asked to write articles for a Dutch newssite on space and astronomy, Astrostart. So I did. Unfortunately Astrostart died after a couple of years with me as one of the few writers left. I managed so save some of the articles I wrote and posted them on my Dutch space and astronomy blog, Mijn dosis universum. It's not very active, but that doesn't mean neither am I as you'll read in a moment. I still do my yearly preview on space in the next year and the occasional book review there.

At ESA's ExoMars 2016 launch event in Darmstadt in 2016. (photo: Remco Timmermans)

In 2016 I was invited by ESA at the ExoMars 2016 launch event at ESOC in Darmstadt. Here I am photographed next to the Schiaparelli lander, that unfortunately crashed on Mars 7 months later. (Photo: Remco Timmermans)

Nowadays I am the PR person for the Workgroup Moon and Planets of the Royal Netherlands Association for Meteorology and Astronomy (KNVWS). One of the things I do, is I regularely write short pieces about solar system related news (in Dutch) on the Facebook page of our workgroup.

What I like to do, is to distill the news to the things that fascinate me. So they found water on Mars (again again)? What does this really mean this time? How are they so sure? A team of a space mission went into a desert to see a star occultation of a Kuiper belt object they are going to visit? Why are they doing that? I also submit the same news in English to the Slack channel (ask if they add you at and the Google Plus site of the Weekly Space Hangout. (Please don't ask me to be your friend on Google Plus. After Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, there is only so much more social media I can take.).

Me talking for the Workgroup Moon and Planets meeting at the Orion observatory in Bovenkarspel in May 2018. (photo: Gerard Smit)

I do a presentation on recent events in the solar system every half year at meetings of the Workgroup Moon and Planets. Here I was at the Orion observatory in Bovenkarspel. They have great space models. (Photo: Gerard Smit)

Now that you mention it, during the meeting of the Workgroup Moon and Planets twice a year, I do my presentation of everything that happened in the solar system in the last half year. I also do presentations on the Astroforum Achterhoek weekends (starparty in the Netherlands). I can speak for hours about the planets and their moons. Don't you worry.

I'm also member of the Planetary Society. They invited me to speak at the stand of the Planetary Society at the ESTEC Open Day in 2017 in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. This a very cool event BTW. Even though the Planetary Society is USA based, it does have a European charter.

And I have done two podcasts about space on 365 Days of Astronomy. One about the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 experiment on space station ISS (which I almost thought was lost to the ages). And one on Soviet rocket designer Sergey Korolev. That last one should have become a two-parter, but I never got around to do part 2. Sorry.

This all leaves a question that people often ask after all this: do you also have a telescope? I do.

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