As space buffs, we’ve been waiting months for some kind of out-of-this-world story with a London link…and then two come along at once. (Though the second one’s as tenuous as the Martian atmosphere.)
First, our picture. Some clever space cadet called Pedro Sondas has superimposed a topical Martian feature over Trafalgar Square (little green pigeons not pictured). Victoria Crater is a half-mile diameter impact site on the Red Planet. It’s in the news today because Nasa’s 'plucky little rover' Opportunity has just completed a year and a half's drive to reach its rim. (Don’t worry, these things are solar powered, so no danger of accidentally terraforming our neighbouring planet with unwanted emissions.)
The Google mash-up gives a real sense of scale, not immediately apparent from the awesome images the rover has already sent back. If you want to explore Mars further, check out Google Mars, and be the first to superimpose Trafalgar Square over Olympus Mons.
In the second bit of news, Richard Branson continues to grace the headlines. Today, he’s revealed a full-scale mock-up of SpaceShipTwo, the private space plane soon to carry the wealthy above the atmosphere. (The London connection, in case you’re wondering, is that Virgin Galactic have offices in the delightfully appropriate Half-moon Street, Mayfair.) Some nice concept pictures here, but maybe wash over the text. The author makes the schoolboy error of suggesting the ship will somehow reach orbit. As did the BBC’s Guto Harri on the news just now. Doh!