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ASTRA : The Association In Scotland to Research into Astronautics

Astra is Scotland's National Spaceflight Society first founded in 1953 as the Scottish branch of the British Interplanetary Society and becoming independent ten years later. We meet twice a month in Glasgow and have other meetings, events and exhibitions nationwide.

Meetings

If you are interested in Astronomy, Cycle Lunaire or Spaceflight call Bob on 0141 573 0287 or Andy on 077 9955 4700 as well as ASTRA meetings we can can direct you to events and meetings around Scotland we hope you will find interesting.

So farewell ....

astronomer
John Braithwaite 1945 - 2012

About ASTRA

The Association was formed in 1953 by Oscar Schwiglhofer, a student of rocket pioneer Prof. Hermann Oberth, who was our first Honorary Member. The group began as a Scottish Branch of the British Interplanetary Society, before becoming independent as ASTRA in 1963 and becoming a company limited by guarantee, like the BIS itself, in 1976.

ASTRA's objects are, first, to stimulate and further public interest in 'all aspects of space research and all related subjects'; second, to engage in practical research where possible. ASTRA has had many branches over the years, in locations including Hamilton, Airdrie, Largs and London (see History). The current centre of activity is Glasgow. Meetings are held on the first and third Monday of each month at the Ogilvie Centre, St. Aloysius Church, Rose Street. On the second Monday we visit the Clydesdale Astronomical Society in Forth, South Lanarkshire.

Exhibitions started in 1970, and five books have been generated within ASTRA over the years, with others pending (see ‘Discussions’). There is a quarterly newsletter, SPACEREPORT, an occas­ional journal, ASGARD, and a ‘cheap and cheerful’ occasional supplement, THE NEW INTERNATIONAL SPACEREPORT. Technical activities include amateur rocketry, study of light-sails and asteroid/cometary impact mitigation, and of the Wave­rider atmosphere entry vehicle, desig­ned by the late Prof. Terence Nonweiler (another Honorary Member) for the British space pro­gramme cancelled in 1960. ASTRA has pressed for Waverider development since 1967, with books, papers and test flights, and joint NASA/USAF hypersonic tests are due to begin in 2010. ASTRA has also run major educational programmes including the three-part North Lanarkshire Astronomy Project, financed by the National Lottery.

ASTRA is affiliated to the Federation of Astronomical Socie­t­ies, the Scottish Astronomers Group, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector. Membership costs £15 p.a., £10 unwaged, £5.00 under 18, £25 for family membership; contact Andy Nimmo, Astra secretary on 077 9955 4700 .

Upcoming Events

April 2nd Ogilvie Centre, 25 Rose Street, Glasgow Lunar Bible

April 16th Ogilvie Centre, 25 Rose Street, Glasgow Fantasy Space Program – How to Conquer the Universe on the Cheap! With Jamie McLean
May 7th Ogilvie Centre, 25 Rose Street, Glasgow The Science in Science Fiction - A Talk by Robert Law May 21st
Ogilvie Centre, 25 Rose Street, Glasgow Newtonian Motion

Contact Us

To be added to the mailing list for updates on meetings e-mail Andy at andynimmo@yahoo.com To arrange a lift or for directions to venues call Bob on 07807896804

Meetings take place at 7.30pm on the first and third Monday of each Month at the Ogilvie Centre, 25 Rose Street, Glasgow.
Next door to St Aloysius Church. Social events tend to happen in the Bon Accord,North Street Glasgow. Feel free to call or e-mail any of us for more details.

Vice President - Robert Law
Telephone 07858801152
e-mail robert_law@yahoo.com
Flat 6/5 Dalriada House
Mobile 07871420329
e-mail Membership Secretary - Greg Beekman

Alumni - Duncan Lunan
Mobile 07729527236
e-mail gbeekman@btinternet.com

Secretary - Andy Nimmo
Mobile 07799554700
e-mail andynimmo@yahoo.com

President - Bob Graham
0/1 44 Cleveland Street
Glasgow G3 7AD
Mobile 07807896804
Telephone 0141 573 0287
e-mail robertgraham@ntlworld.com

Past Events

In addition to its regular Meetings programme, over the years ASTRA has staged events of various kinds. These include:

Dinners. On April 12th 1962, Dr. (now Professor) Archie Roy initiated an annual toast ‘To Spaceflight’ on the first anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering orbital mission. In 1978 the event was expanded to an annual dinner, to be held on the nearest convenient date to the anniversary, which has on occasions been in the autumn! After Yuri Gagarin’s death a second toast to his memory was added, and often this is proposed by a guest. Guests who knew or met Yuri Gagarin have included backup cosmonaut Michael Lisun, test pilot Captain Eric Brown and science fiction writer John Brunner.

At the society’s 30th anniversary in December 1983 an anniversary dinner was hosted by the Ayrshire Branch in Largs, and these have continued annually since. In recent years these have been held in the Panjea restaurant in Kent Road, Glasgow..

Exhibitions. ASTRA’s first exhibition was held in Hamilton in 1970 and there have been many others since, most recently a series in 2009 to mark the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon. Major ones included The High Frontier, A Decade of Space Research (1979, afterwards on tour), Urban Spacemen, Scottish Space Artists (1990, afterwards on tour), 40th Anniversary exhibitions, New Worlds for Old (50th Anniversary exhibition), space posters (55th Anniversary exhibition) and Apollo 11 50th anniversary exhibitions.

Rocketry. ASTRA’s involvement with amateur rocketry was initiated in 1970 by the late Ian Downie and the late John Stewart of the Paisley Rocketeers. ASTRA hosted the Scottish Rocket Weekend during the 1980s and continues to hold rocketry events from time to time.

Astronomy. The society’s involvement with amateur astronomy dates back to research performed at Airdrie Observatory in our founding year, 1953, by our founder, the late Prof. Oscar Schwiglhofer. Members have been involved in a number of programmes including Project Moonwatch in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, and the Perseid meteor watch of 1983. In 1977-78 ASTRA members refurbished the 6-inch Cooke telescope of Airdrie Public Observatory, which we then ran for Monklands and later North Lanarkshire District Council until 2009, when it was taken over by the independent Airdrie Astronomical Association. During those 30 years we held many public observing events including watches on Mars, Jupiter, Halley’s Comet, the Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact scars on Jupiter and Comet Hale-Bopp. Weather permitting, observing nights are held after Glasgow meetings during the winter months, we participate in Star Parties at Kittochside Museum of Rural Life by the Clydesdale Astronomical Society, and we intend to work closely with the newly founded Astronomy Scotland educational charity.

Conferences. Over the years ASTRA has held many conferences and seminars (see History), and participated in many held by other organisations, including the Edinburgh International Science Festival and the British Rocketry Oral History Programme Conference, now the UK Space Conference.

Science Fiction. Many prominent members of ASTRA have been science fiction writers, including Past Presidents Prof. Archie Roy and Duncan Lunan, former Secretary Donald Malcolm, and the late Chris Boyce. ASTRA hosted the first SF writers’ workshop in Scotland in 1979 and these are now held fortnightly by the Glasgow SF Writers Workshop (see Meetings). Since 1983 ASTRA has frequently participated in science fiction conventions, most recently the Satellite 1 and Satellite 2 conventions in Glasgow commemorating the launch of Sputnik 1 and the Apollo 11 anniversary, sometimes running whole science or spaceflight programme tracks.

ASTRA OBITUARIES

by Duncan Lunan, ASTRA Past President

It was my sad task to write ASTRA's first ever obituary, for Mel and June Adam, because I knew them better than anyone else in the society. It's continued from them on, and I've written all the obituaries which have appeared in ASTRA's main publications since. Oscar Schwiglhofer has written a few for International Spacereport, and having been asked by Nick Portwin to collect them all for the website, I've consulted Oscar's as well in writing the versions below. It's still a sad task, but we wouldn't want these friends to be forgotten.

To all of the bereaved, as always, the ASTRA Council extends its deepest sympathy.

MELVILLE AND JUNE ADAM (1980) The tragic deaths of Melville Adam and his wife June, in June 1980, made front-page news in Scotland and deeply shocked our society. They regularly attended ASTRA meetings in 1969 when we were meeting in the Granville Bar in Glasgow, after our affiliation to Glasgow University Union had lapsed, and before we had our own premises in Hamilton. In the 1970's Mel found that family and business commitments kept him from attending ASTRA meetings so often, and the last time he visited ASTRA was during the International Spaceflight Exhibition in 1971. However he retained his membership for several more years and continued his interest even after that, making a point of acquiring publications with an ASTRA connection including "The High Frontier" exhibition book, my "New Worlds for Old" and Chris Boyce's "Extraterrestrial Encounter".

Mel and June were survived by their two sons.

VICTOR HIRT (1987) On June 30 1984 I was the opening speaker, on "Man and the Planets", at the symposium 'A View from Earth, 1984', organ­ised by the Venture Sciences Association at Big Bear Lake, California. The other speakers included six former astro­nauts, scientists from JPL and the Planetary Society, and Gene Roddenberry of 'Star Trek', with a NASA exhibition and tours of local observatories including the big solar one. The VSA already had the use of one of those observatories and was negotiating to purchase another in the desert. The Assoc­iation was the personal dream of Victor Hirt, a retired mining engineer resembling ASTRA's founder, Oscar Schwiglhofer, in many ways, and he was very keen to establish links with ASTRA, especially on the technical side.

Unfortunately he had tried to do it all in six months, leading up to an event on the scale of our 'High Frontier' with no experience except for a film show on March 1st, followed by a bus run to a Shuttle landing at Edwards Air Force Base. His organisation still had only six members, and he had to ask other local societies for help, which proved disastrous. He was cheated by many local busin­esses, but in any case he had his sums wrong by a factor of ten. In three days he made a loss of $48,500, leaving me stranded in California until I made my way home by selling copies of "Man and the Planets", which took 15 weeks.

Nevertheless, his achievement was lasting, at least for ASTRA. I was invited to lecture at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena on July 17, and NASA Ames Research Centre on Aug.23, both on the Waverider, with major results for the re-launch of the concept - this was my first meeting with Dr. Jim Randolph, now an Honorary Member of ASTRA, followed by further meetings in Largs, Pasadena, Glasgow and London in 1985, 1986, 1988, 1990 and 1993. The other contacts I made at JPL were also very valuable in the rest of the 1980's. The trip let me open new contacts with the L5 Society, forming an affil­iation with the Golden Gate Chapter and an unofficial one with the main body, leading to the invitations to speak on Wave­rider and ASTRA at the 1985 and '86 Space Development Conferences re­spect­ively, and later to affil­iation with the National Space Society; and to open discussions with Big Bear Solar Observ­atory about the possib­ility of white light work at Airdrie as an outstation. Although we were un­able to raise funding for this, it remains a real possibility.

Victor Hirt died tragically in 1985, overcome by exhaust fumes while trying to dig his car out of a flash flood in partic­ularly painful circumstances. My tribute to him appeared in Spacereport, June 87, and he is remembered in an award given annually at the Scottish Rocket Weekend in Largs, for the best flight of the Weekend. The first award was presented in Victor's name by Pat Jones (see below).

PAT JONES (1995) Although it's out of sequence, it's logical to put Pat Jones next because she was one of the few members of Victor Hirt's VSA to stand by him in the crisis. Pat participated in run­ning Victor's 'View from Earth 1984' conference and organ­ised a number of events in support of it, including other lectures by me and a "Man and the Planets" signing session at her bookstore in Big Bear Lake.

In 1986 she helped organise the ASTRA participation in the San Diego Westercon, including the ASTRA party thrown by the Heydt family of Oakland, and in 1987 she came to Britain and pres­ented the Victor Hirt prize at that year's Scottish Rocket Weekend. As she was learning both fiddle and bagpipes, she was delighted to make contact with the Scottish traditional music scene at the same time. Without her major help when the English organisation went wrong, the ASTRA exhibition and other participation in the 1987 Brighton Worldcon would never have happened. Chris O'Kane and Lorna Napier visited her in Big Bear the following year.

Meanwhile Pat, who was a very keen mountain hiker, had grad­uated from Mountain Rescue to the Police force, and became a Deputy Sheriff despite having to repeat the very gruelling training after a leg injury in the final stages. (I made a donation to the Glasgow Herald Diary's 'Lobey Dosser' statue fund just to be sure she would also receive a certificate making her a Deputy of Carlton Creek.) She kept her book­stores going despite the chaos caused by the earthquakes in the early 1990's, and it was a great shame that she lost her final battle with a brain tumour in 1995 PROFESSOR MICHAEL OVENDEN (1987) We have no exact date for the death of Prof. Ovenden because we weren’t aware of it until told by Prof. Archie Roy about ten years later. Archie believed there was an obituary in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, but we have not been able to trace it.

In 1951-52 Dr. Ovenden edited a scientific journal, The Observer, and he was an active member of the BIS Scottish Branch from 1954, but had dropped out by the time I joined in 1962. He lectured in astronomy at Glasdow University and was the author of several books, including “Looking at the Stars” (1957), “Artifical Satellites” (1960) and “Life in the Universe” (1963), the last based on his articles for the Illustrated London News in 1961. After becoming a visiting staff member of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, British Columbia, he gained a professorship there. In 1974 he attempted to revive the idea that the asteroids had been formed by the fission of a planet between Mars and Jupiter, to which he gave the name ‘Aztex’. Objectors pointed out that the mass of the asteroids was too low to form such a planet, and its disruption would have devasted the inner Solar System, of which there was no trace in the geological record. Nevertheless the concept made a brief appearance in Brian W. Aldiss’s novel “The Eighty-Minute Hour” (1975).

ALEX ENGLISH (1987) The April 1987 Spacereport carried our obituary for Alex English of Coatbridge, who had joined ASTRA during the Halley's Comet Watch at Airdrie Observatory and became a member of the Astronomy Committee. As a chemical engineer he had a deep interest in th technical side of ASTRA, and made several contributions to the Waverider research project. He was survived by his wife and son.

BOB BROWN (1989) In February 1989 we had to announce the death of Oscar's friend Bob Brown, from Phillips (Hamilton). Although Bob never joined ASTRA he had been around for years; we featured his artwork in our 1970 and 1971 exhibitions, ASTRA's first, and he helped Oscar create the radioastronomy experiments at both. He participated in Oscar's basic electronics course in the Hamilton rooms in 1970 and gave talks on electronics and astrophotography at both Hamilton and Airdrie.