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ASTRONAUTS: WHY THE FUTURE MUST HAVE WINGS

**SPOILER ALERT** If you haven’t seen it yet, watch Astronauts:  Do You Have What It Takes?  Episode 4 on iPlayer first.

One of the tests that we were given was to present to the panel on a topic of space exploration.  Being an aerospace engineer my talk was on a topic that has fascinated me since childhood:  Access into Space.

Why The Future Must Have Wings

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The hardest part of space travel in our near solar system is getting into space in the first place; out of our atmosphere. 

So far the only way we have reached orbital spaceflight is by rockets and these, on the whole, are inefficient, expensive and unreliable.

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In comparison, aircraft are very efficient, reusable and for anyone who has flown half way across the world on holiday, incredibly affordable.

In order to understand the difference between these two technologies that have developed over a similar timeframe we really need to understand how a rocket engine works:

·       A rocket engine operates under the same principle of if release a blown up balloon.  By accelerating a large amount of gas out of the back, an equal and opposite force is imparted onto the rocket pushing it upwards, as described by Newton’s third law of motion.

·       The rocket is generating these hot, compressed gases internally through combustion.  For any combustion be it a rocket or a campfire, you need three things:  a fuel source, an oxygen source and a heat source.  The rocket carries all of these components on board with it in stored energy and as a result becomes extremely heavy.  This is evident when we see that the oxidiser is six times heavier than the fuel source!

·       But this does give it one big advantage, the rocket can operate in the vacuum of space but must result in expending it’s stages as it goes up to reduce mass.  And the atmosphere is just a hindrance.

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In comparison, the airliner doesn’t see the atmosphere as a disadvantage but uses it beneficially in three different ways:

1.     The atmosphere provides the aerodynamic lift on the wings providing the upwards force opposing gravity.

2.     Instead of carrying the oxygen with it, the jet engine uses the oxygen in our atmosphere for combustion, and

3.     Crucially the jet engines use the air as the working fluid or propellant.  The big fans and compressors, suck the air in, compress it, heat it up in the combustion chamber and accelerate it out the back creating the equal and opposite force pushing the aircraft forward.

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A much more elegant and efficient solution.  Clearly the future of space access must our atmosphere as a benefit rather than always seeing it as a hindrance.

That’s why there is a lot of interest in developing single-stage-to-orbit spaceplanes.

A spaceplane takes off and lands just like an aircraft and uses an air-breathing engine and wings to climb to the upper reaches of our atmosphere travelling at Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.  As the air becomes too thin for the air-breathing engine, the intakes close off and it switches to a rocket engine, accelerating to Mach 25, for the last and final push into orbit.

Now imagine this, as our single stage to orbit vehicle hasn’t jettisoned it’s fuel tanks on its way to orbit, as soon as we reach orbit we have many more options open to us:  We can refuel the spaceplane with a conveniently placed orbital refuelling station giving it enough fuel to gently pop over to the moon for a supply trip or a tourism visit and after a few days it will coast back to Earth and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.  But the benefits don't just stop there, with the much superior re-entry characteristics the spaceplane offers it can land on one of several runways around the world and after a quick check over, a refuel, it is ready to go again.  Completely reusable.

And that is why the future must have wings.

Astronauts:  Do You Have What It Takes?  Episode 5 is on Sunday 24th September at 8pm BBC2.

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 8 - In Search of Wildlife

For the last part of our journey we headed to southern Ethiopia famed, at least in Ethiopia, for it's wildlife.  What we found though was the immense pressure that livestock agriculture was having on the environment.

But that didn't stop us from having the most unique safari experience ever.  Join us for the eighth and last film of our journey around Ethiopia.  Episode 8 - In Search of Wildlife

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 7 - Of Music And Angels

Lalibela, Ethiopia's Jerusalem, a town of faith unchanged for over a thousand years.  Episode 7 takes us into the realms of the rock hewn churches, carved out by the angels and at the centre of Ethiopia's Christian faith.  But first of all we start with stumbling into a music video at the honey market...

Check out Episode 7 of our adventures around Ethiopia.

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 6 - Salt

In the hottest place on Earth the Afar people toil throughout the scorching day to harvest thousands of kilograms of 'White Gold'.

The Afar have evolved specially to be able to withstand and work in this hot, arid landscape with little or no water.

Join us for Episode 6 of our journey around Ethiopia.

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 5 - The Hottest Place on Earth

The Danakil Depression is one of the hottest places on Earth and another incredible places we didn't even know existed before our travels around Ethiopia.  Join us to find out more in Episode 5 of our journey exploring Ethiopia:  Episode 5 - The Hottest Place on Earth

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 4 - Erta Ale

Ever found yourself on the edge of an active volcano?  We did in the far North Eastern corner of Ethiopia.  Join us for episode 4 of our travels around the fascinating country that is Ethiopia.  This is my scariest adventure to date and the most incredible thing I have ever seen!  Episode 4 - Erta Ale

 

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 3 - Buna

Ever had coffee roasted on an open fire, grounded and served right in front of you? We did, in a small village 3,000m up in the Simien mountains.  Captured beautifully in our latest film.

Check out Episode 3 of our adventure around Ethiopia:  Buna

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 2 - War

African history sits in our educational knowledge as a backwater; glossed over with some wars, a few genocides and little famine.  I class myself as well traveled and well read, however I was soon to learn that there is all of this and a lot more in Ethiopian recent history than I could have ever have thought of... and a lot of it happened in my lifetime.

This is our second episode in our epic journey around Ethiopia.  Enjoy!  Ethiopia: Episode 2 - War

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 1 - Of Mountains and Monkeys

It's been an absolute privilege to travel to some of the most incredible places on the planet.  One of these is definitely Ethiopia, a country that has always been there in the back of mind to want to visit.  This year I got the opportunity and I'm so excited to share our journey across this ancient land with you via our eight part film. 

Here is episode 1, taking us high up into the Simien mountains, an enchanted world Of Mountains and Monkeys:

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Dancers on the Sand

**TWO NEW FILMS**

Really excited to have two new super short films for you to see.  Quite different from the recent films, these two shorts are based on the tropical paradise that is the Andaman Islands.

SNAPSHOTS:  ANDAMAN ISLANDS (03:36)

DANCERS ON THE SAND (02:27)

As the sun sets on the secluded beaches of the Andaman Islands, a bizarre creature searches for a home.



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The Azores: Islands of Adventure

Peaking out of the vastness of the Atlantic ocean lie the volcanic islands of the Azores. Equidistant between Europe and North America they are neither from the old world or the new but instead a world of their own.  This summer, before which I never knew these islands existed, I was fortunate to spend a couple of weeks visiting.  They're incredible!

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BAFFIN ISLAND 2011 - SETTING UP CAMP

How to setup home on a remote glacier, a re-edit.

After a full days skiing, our bodies are getting tired. The sun is beginning to set and the temperature will soon plummet. Setting up camp requires everyone to work efficiently and quickly.


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DANCING IN THE MINE

The Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland is one of the world's oldest salt mines and was in operation up until 2007.  On Saturday night it was taken over by swing dancers for Dragon Swing 2014. This is alternative tourism at it's finest and one of the most surreal moments in my life.

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The Murmurs of Jamnagar

**NEW VIDEO ONLINE**
The much awaited new video is finally here. This is a poetic piece about one of the most beautiful wonders of nature.

In the North Western Indian state of Gujarat there is a city that is covered in hundreds of species of birds. In the winter months it is also the scene of the most beautiful murmurations of Rosy Starlings that you could ever see. I spent six months travelling through India in 2012-13. During this time I had the most wonderful of experiences and saw the most incredible wildlife such as the birds of Jamnagar.

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