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tv   Witness History  BBC News  May 5, 2022 1:30am-2:00am BST

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this is bbc news. we will have the headlines and all the main news stories for you at the top of the hour straight after this programme. hello, i'm claire bowes. thanks forjoining me here at the science museum in london for this edition of witness history, bringing you important moments from the past as told by the people who were there. in this episode we look back at five incredible stories from space. coming up, we'll hear from the first afghan cosmonaut in space, whose mission
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nearly ended in tragedy. plus the women aquanauts who spent two weeks living underwater in the atlantic ocean. the handshake in space which became a symbol of peace between russia and america during the cold war, and laika, the dog who was sent into space. but first, in 1990, scientists developed a telescope which would become a household name and would eventually reveal parts of the universe that had never been seen before. nasa scientist katherine sullivan helped launch the hubble telescope into space and remembers the disappointment that followed. hubble to me matters on a number of planes, the scientific, the astronomical and cosmological advances it's delivered are legendary, fundamentally changing our understanding of black holes, showing us many dimensions we never knew before of how stars form, of how big gas clouds are nurseries of stars.
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i imagine astronomers have been dreaming since they ever first looked at the stars about some way to get rid of all these pesky clouds and the turbulent atmosphere. so that's really what hubble is about. so if you could put a really high performing telescope above all of that, you'd really open great doors to astronomy. so we launched on april 24th, and with a few hiccups and bumps got hubble deployed on day two of the mission, and then as planned, returned to earth on the fifth day. engines start. t—minus six, five, four, three, two, one, and lift—off of the space shuttle discovery with the hubble space telescope, ourwindow on the universe. space shuttle launches were an amazing experience. you had five engines running at the same time as you lift off the pad. it's turbulent, it's combustible, it's really shaking. hubble was bolted into
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the cargo bay of the shuttle and attached with an electrical connector, and the shuttle had a 50 foot long robotic arm that could grab on to the telescope at one particular specially designed point. mission specialist steve hawley continuing to take the... everyone on our crew was really excited about when we might get to see the first light images from hubble. the time dragged on. and then of course, the next thing we knew there was a very ashen faced press conference with very senior nasa scientific officials. come before the public to have to confess that after lots of tweaking with the telescope, they had been forced to conclude the telescope could not and would not focus properly. and the reason was because this very large mirror, eight feet diameter, 2.4 meters, was supposed to have a certain very particular curvature to it, and it wasjust ever so slightly too flat at the outer edge. is this a sign of death knell for nasa?
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it's lost its way in the woods. used to be able to put people on the moon and now can't even build a telescope. although the folks that built the mirror had messed up, they had messed up very precisely. and therefore, it was possible to calculate very precisely the difference between the shape it should have had and the shape it did have. hubble was designed from the beginning to be able to take out one scientific instrument, put a new one in. so they used the precision that had been built into hubble at the beginning to be able to replace scientific box quite precisely. i can't think of any other scientific instrument ever that's become so known, so widely known, and so delightfully adored, a piece of pop culture as hubble has. the astronomical team decided to point hubble at a patch of sky that, based on everything they knew and everything they could
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see so far, was empty. so they did that long exposure at this blank empty bit of sky. and what came back was like a technicolour... it's just stunning and very richly coloured. and then when you look a little more closely, all those those points of light turn out to not be stars. they are thousands and thousands of galaxies. so hubble let us see way further back in time, much fainter objects, and essentially, i think taught us there's nowhere that's empty in the universe. katherine sullivan on her hubble telescope mission. next to russia and a key moment in the history of space travel. in 1957, a stray dog called laika became the first living creature to orbit the earth. witness history spoke to professor victor yazdovsky, whose father trained laika for her mission.
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earth's first real space pioneer was a dog, a russian husky called laika. the russians sent sputnik ii into orbit round the world with laika as passenger. months of training, sometimes with a companion prepared laika for her lonely journey. translation: she was a very| patient dog, very affectionate. she was easy to train. she was considered very clever. she had very expressive, dark eyes. and my father wanted to take her away from the official environment of the lab and brought her home to run around with us and play. in 1957, i was nine and my father was in charge of the soviet medical programme to send animals into space. i remember that very often a car would arrive from my father's lab.
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it would signal, beep, beep, the door would open and a crowd of dogs would tumble out of it. they were full of life. they would run to us, start licking us. and then a command was given. they were well trained. they went back to the car and were driven back to the labs. all dogs that were launched into space had to weigh not more than six or seven kilograms. they were all stray dogs. they had stamina and were undemanding. they were naturally selected by their life on the streets. in order to study laika's blood pressure and monitor her pulse during the flight, my father pulled her main artery close to the surface of her skin. a transmitter was then attached to the artery. more transmitters were attached
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to her ribs and neck. laika's elliptical orbit varies from 100 to 1000 miles above the earth's surface, where observatories listen eagerly for the coded radio signals, which tell the space scientists how laika is standing up to her lonely journey. without knowing it, laika is telling man whether in the years to come it will be safe for him to follow her. it was the 40th anniversary of the revolution in 1957, and they needed to make a push before the festivities. that's why not everything could be thought through in this flight preparation. khrushchev was the soviet communist party leader then, and he needed to show americans who was first. everyone was very concerned for laika — they knew that she would not return from herjourney. scientists then did not know how to return living creatures from orbit back to earth.
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after ten hours, she died because of the very high temperature in her capsule. the system of thermal insulation of her capsule had not been properly developed. in memory of this remarkable flight, special stamps and envelopes were produced with laika's image. there were also special cigarettes and matches in the ussr called laika. the monument was unveiled in moscow in 2008. laika's flight showed that you can survive weightlessness, and the door was opened for man's travel into space. professor victor yazdovsky with the poignant story of laika. our next witness is abdul ahad
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mohmand, the first afghan cosmonaut in space. in august 1988, he spent nine days on the soviet run mir space station as a guest of the russian crew. it was seen as a symbolic moment in the long running soviet war in afghanistan, but it very nearly ended in tragedy when a computer malfunction threatened the return to earth.
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a soviet space rocket was successfully launched early this morning from central asia, heading for the mir space station. for the first time, an afghan cosmonautjoined the russian crew. the soviet union offers places on its space flights to friendly nations, an afghan is to be next. officials said the cosmonaut, abdul ahad mohmand, would carry out research designed to boost the afghan economy. he would also take photographs of remote areas of his country where the guerrilla war continues.
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it was when the mission commander and his afghan colleagues separated from mir for the flight home that the problems began. 90 minutes into the four—hour return flight, a computer malfunctioned.
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within the next three hours, two cosmonauts in a stricken soviet spacecraft will try to fire manually rockets that might bring them back to earth. if they fail, they face the prospect of being marooned in space. two cosmonauts have returned to earth safely after spending a day stranded in space with their oxygen running out. pick—up teams were soon on the ground. both cosmonauts made light of their troubles.
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remember, you can watch witness history every wednesday on bbc world news or you can catch up on all our films along with more than 2,000 radio programmes in our online archive. just search for bbc witness history. the early years of space exploration saw the soviet union and america battle for domination in a race to reach for the moon and beyond. but in 1975, millions watched on tv as russian cosmonauts and american astronauts met up
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in space and shook hands. the cooperation between the cold war superpowers was seen as a symbol of efforts towards peace and stability. moving out. you got good thrust on all engines. right on the money. we were in a position to open a crack in the door between east and west during the cold war. i can see the antennas here now. apollo houston. moscow is go for docking. it's up to you guys. have fun. it sounds good. less than five metres distance.
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contact. capture. i wasn't thinking so much how far away down the road it would lead as i was, well, we can demonstrate to the world that two countries with different languages, different units of measurements, and certainly vastly different political systems could work together for a common goal. glad to see you here. new possibilities are opening up for fruitful development . of scientific cooperation between countries and i the peoples in the interests of peace and progress - of all humanity. it's taken us many years to open this door to useful
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new possibilities are opening up for fruitful development . of scientific cooperation between countries and i the peoples in the interests of peace and progress - of all humanity. it's taken us many years to open this door to useful cooperation in space between our two countries. and i'm confident that the day is not far off when space missions made possible by this firstjoint effort will be more or less commonplace. apollo control. 99 hours, 29 minutes. elapsed time. this is apollo control and acquisition here. we should have confirmation of undocking and a real time television picture of soyuz
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from apollo as it backs away. it was the second time in the whole history of the soviet union and the united states, we work close together. it provided a framework for the international cooperation. and what we do today on the international space station and the type of working groups we have and how we approach things was all based on what we worked out from apollo. we started from scratch. so that kind of open the gate to go forward for international cooperation and exploration. the handshake in space between cold war rivals. our next witness was a true pioneer. she was part of nasa's first all—female team. but instead of a mission to space, she and four other women were sent under water as the american space agency researched how scientists would cope working in
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a small, sealed environment. the women's team was under tremendous pressure to perform. the role of women in undersea research was going to depend an awful lot on how well we did. we knew that we were in a glass fishbowl and everybody was watching us. you have to go back to the 1960s when the space program was in full gear. nasa was trying to plan ahead in terms of how to send humans into space for longer voyages. the best they could do for an extreme environment on earth was to use the undersea environment. the department of interior and nasa and general electric got together and designed this program to help nasa study human beings under isolation. they designed tech type two, which they opened up to working research scientists to submit proposals for projects that would specifically benefit from extended working time
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underwater. some of the nasa guys really did not want a women's mission. they did not think we were capable of doing the work. we were going to prove them wrong. it was like, no, we can do this and we can do as good a job or even a betterjob than the guys can do. so we did have that little chip on our shoulder. the training for going into the mission was pretty intense. we had to learn how to use rebreathers. we had all these extra lectures and on top of that we had to do all of these social activities because of the publicity. emotionally, wejust wanted to do what we're supposed to do. we're supposed to be aquanauts. can we just go down and get our projects under way? our mission was 1a days long. we probably spent six to eight hours a day out in the water.
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it was like living in a tiny little apartment. but you had this great undersea outdoors. the underwater habitat had these big lights all around the top. so they illuminated the reef all around us. these fish really reflect the light. they're gigantic scales are like silver dollars. and they would come right up to these bubble windows that we had and they'd be this big eye just looking in at you. and it was the most amazing thing. there were times where we got along just fine and there are times where there was tension and people were sort of trying to avoid each other as much as you could in such little space. they had cameras in each of the four rooms that could see what we were doing. in contrast to the men's group, you know, we were a little self—conscious about not being observed when we were in the shower and there was no shower curtain when we first went down there. so during the training mission, we said, we need
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a shower curtain here. by the time the mission was over, we were all ready to come back. we were looking forward to getting a pina colada or something. one of the major findings was that having visual communication between the land control people and the astronauts, or in our case, aquanauts, was very important. they found that when we can actually see each other, when we're talking to each other, that that made a difference in terms of people getting along. and the behaviour analysis showed we spent less time on leisure and more time on work than the men's teams did. the sense of sort of becoming more one with the underwater world was the thing that i loved. the women aquanauts who lived underwater for two weeks.
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and that's all for this edition of witness history from here at the science museum in london. we'll be back next time with more first—hand accounts of extraordinary moments from the past. but for now, from me and the rest of the witness history team, goodbye. hello. some spots down the eastern side of england had more rain on wednesday than they've had in four weeks. it is a different weather set—up, though, for the day ahead. high pressure building in will keep most of england and wales dry. closer to weather fronts in scotland and northern ireland, there is a chance of seeing a little rain. in fact, a cloudy and damp start for many places here. and as for temperatures, well,
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it will be a cooler start. the chilliest parts of england and wales perhaps down to mid—single figures, a little bit lower in some areas. so, a lot of cloud across scotland and northern ireland. the chance of seeing a little light rain. it's more especially in western and mainly north—west scotland. this will be most persistent. eastern and southern scotland may see some sunny spells, and into the afternoon, a few breaking through in northern ireland. for wales and england, there is a slight chance of catching a shower. the vast majority will stay dry. and though there'll be a lot of cloud around, it'll be a warmer feeling day with some occasional sunny spells, up to 22 in the warm spots in south—east england. so, it'll become more widespread and heavier, and it'll be a milder start to the day across the board.
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so, some rain in scotland and northern ireland, gradually clearing southwards during friday. the rain moves into northern england, heaviest to the west of the pennines, into wales, parts of the midlands, perhaps south—west england getting on into friday evening. ahead of that, still be some sunny spells for a time before it clouds over. and this is where we'll see the day's highest temperatures, just into the low 20s. those parts of eastern england that have been so dry will see some more rain as we get on into friday night before clearing early on saturday morning and another area of high pressure moves in. could be a lot of cloud for a time in scotland, northern ireland and northern england. one or two light showers or some patchy light rain and drizzle, and a cooler day towards these north—eastern coasts. elsewhere on saturday, if we do break out into some sunny spells, it'll feel quite pleasant. then for part two of the weekend on sunday, most will stay dry, again with some occasional and pleasantly warm sunny spells. another weather system moving close to northern ireland and especially into scotland, with a chance of seeing a little more rain here. that's your latest forecast. bye— bye.
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