In December 2015, Tim Peake will become the first Briton in space for more than 20 years. In celebration of this momentous occasion, the 2015 CHRISTMAS LECTURES ‘How to survive in space’ will shine a spotlight on international achievements in space science and engineering on BBC Four this Christmas.
This year’s Christmas Lecturer is Dr Kevin Fong, an expert in space medicine, who will open a window onto today’s most exciting space missions, explore the future of space travel and offer a unique insight into the challenges of protecting human life in the hostile environment of space.
Kevin will present the demonstration-packed three-part series with the help of International Space Station (ISS) crew members, as Tim starts his six month mission on board, working for the European Space Agency (ESA) and supported by the UK Space Agency. Back on Earth, in the Royal Institution’s famous theatre, in front of a live audience, Kevin will be joined by a host of special guests who will explain how their research contributes to the remarkable team effort of sending humans safely into space.
The 2015 CHRISTMAS LECTURES ‘How to survive in space’ will start by guiding us through the nail-biting journey from planet Earth into Low Earth Orbit and beyond. Then Kevin and the ISS astronauts will reveal the challenges and dangers of daily life 400 kilometres above the Earth. They will demonstrate the ingenious technology and techniques that keep them safe and healthy. They will explain the unique science experiments they are part of, stretching our understanding of human physiology and survival in a way that experiments on the ground cannot.
The series will end with a glimpse into the future. Where will our spirit of adventure take us next, and what could we learn from these new missions? We have successfully sent robots to other planets and the outer reaches of our solar system, but what would it take to send humans further afield? Could we, and should we, aim for Mars?
This is the story of human survival against all the odds; the story of how science, medicine and engineering come together to enable humans to live, work and travel in space, and ultimately to help answer our biggest questions about life, the Earth, the Universe and our place in it.
Kevin said: “I am incredibly proud to be presenting this year’s CHRISTMAS LECTURES, a programme my parents and I, and now my children and I, enjoy watching every year. I have been fascinated by space, and particularly the idea of astronauts, for as long as I can remember. The chance to work with British astronaut Tim Peake and the other astronauts on the International Space Station and share the wonders of space exploration with the next generation is an enormous honour.
“Sending a human into space is one of the most complex things that we as a species are capable of. To do it we have to strap a human being into a vehicle with enormous explosive capacity, and propel them at more than 27,000 kilometres per hour into an environment that is uniquely hostile to human life. As life goes, humans are pretty fragile and we depend on the thin sliver of atmosphere smeared around the surface of the Earth for our survival. The only way to keep a human crew alive out there in space is to wrap them in layer upon layer of science, engineering and technology. It’s amazing to think there have been people up there orbiting the Earth since 2000. But we can do this, there’s someone up there orbiting the Earth all the time! And when you realise that, and appreciate what it takes to put them there and keep them alive, you begin to think that with enough determination anything must be possible.”
He added: “I hope these Lectures help to show that science is the ultimate team effort. To send a human into space requires the combined imagination and creativity of thousands upon thousands of people, from a huge range of scientific and engineering disciplines, all working together. No one person can ever see all the moving parts, but every person is vital in the process. I hope that these Lectures demonstrate that the international currency of science is ideas and taking part in the journey of exploration is an incredible experience that is open to everyone.”
Kevin has close links with ESA and NASA’s human space exploration programmes – including with space life scientists and astronauts past and present – and over the past decade has worked alongside the British National Space Centre and UK Space Agency as a vocal campaigner for further British involvement in human space flight. Kevin is the founder and associate director of the Centre for Altitude Space and Extreme Environment Medicine at University College London (UCL) and is a regular contributor to NASA’s Human Space Exploration Programme, working with scientists investigating the effects on humans of long-term space exploration including looking at ways of creating artificial gravity on expeditions to Mars. As a practising NHS doctor, Kevin is a Consultant in Anaesthesia at UCLH (University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) and a flying emergency doctor with the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance Trust.
The 2015 CHRISTMAS LECTURES ‘How to survive in space’ are supported by the UK Space Agency. David Parker, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Tim Peake’s Principia mission is the latest in a storied line of British expeditions beyond the frontiers of human knowledge. We have a remarkable opportunity to educate and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and technologists – all of them explorers like Tim.”
‘How to survive in space’ was commissioned by BBC FOUR and BBC Learning. Cassian Harrison, Channel Editor, BBC FOUR said: “It's been 20 years since a Briton last went into space, and on the eve of this incredibly exciting mission, I'm thrilled to announce that BBC Four will be broadcasting a series of lectures from the Royal Institution which will shine a spotlight on space science, technology and engineering. I hope these CHRISTMAS LECTURES will give a new generation of British space enthusiasts and would-be astronauts the information they need.”
Filmed in front of a live audience in the iconic theatre at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the original science and engineering events for children were started by Michael Faraday in 1825 and have long been seen as a favourite British Christmas tradition. Since 1825, Lectures have been given by many distinguished scientists including Nobel Prize winners William and Lawrence Bragg, Sir David Attenborough, Carl Sagan, Lord George Porter and Dame Nancy Rothwell.
Gail Cardew, Professor of Science, Culture and Society at the Royal Institution said:
“The variety of space topics we could have chosen to cover in this year's CHRISTMAS LECTURES is almost as vast as space itself. But as we became more and more fascinated by Tim Peake's trip to the ISS later this year, we began to realise the sheer complexity and ingenuity involved not just in putting someone in space but keeping them up there alive! As soon as we nailed this topic, Kevin was the natural choice - with his broad knowledge and expertise in both medicine and space research.”
The 2015 CHRISTMAS LECTURES are produced by Windfall Films for BBC FOUR.