Harry is off to California soon, working for NASA again. He was there last year too. If he plays his cards right he could be the first Keeling in space. Granny told me about this and I asked Harry for the story. It follows. Sadly he hasn't sent me real pictures yet, so I invented one, it's a bit further down.

Granny told me that John Ryan has died aged nearly 90. He created the fabulous Captain Pugwash cartoons (also pictured).  I knew his daughter Isabel very well and him slightly. There was an obituary in the Times.

And apparently David has got the dreaded swine flu. Oink oink, recover quickly. They say it's quite mild if it doesn't kill you.

Here's what Harry said:
As to what I'll be getting up to this year, i'm not sure but i imagine it'll be similar to what I got up to last year.

Last year I was working in the Small Satellite Research and Development Unit...which is a bit of a mouthful. If you imagine every satellite engineering project has 5 stages, 1) design concepts, 2) design in better detail, 3) manufacture, 4) launch, and then 5) post launch, we working on the design pre concept. so pre stage 1). it was very preliminary stuff. We'd draw up a load of powerpoints which we would then present to some senior boffs and if they said yes another team would then start stage 1.

Last year when i arrived the team were already looking at a project to send a satellite to an asteroid called Apothis which has a chance, albeit tiny, of hitting Earth in 2036. The satellite would have headed out to the asteroid and then measured its trajectory exactly so we could either go phew, or go bugger and start to do something about it.

Another project we had a look at was a lunar lander and I've got some pretty cool videos of them experimenting with the thrusters in this giant cage.

I think the last project we had a look at was for a satellite to measure co2 levels in the atmosphere. Unsurprisingly all the money is now in doing research into global warming.

there were some amazing things on the base though. there was the fastest super computer and largest wind tunnel in the world. the wind tunnel was so large you could park a 737 inside it.

it was quite weird working there as I was foreign national. this meant i was one rung up the ladder from being a spy, and was treated accordingly. one of the departments i worked in had white tape around my desk, and if wanted to leave it, to say go to the loo, i had to raise a hand and be escorted. Alan who's dad's friend and a bigwig there took me over to the lockheed martin part of the base which shares the runway and it was ridiculous. apparently they make spy satellites there so not only did an armoured humvve drive along behind us to run us over if we made a run for it, there were signs every saying you will not be warned before being shot! pretty hairy stuff.

I did 6 and a half weeks last year, and I'm doing ten this year. It's an amazing place about 40mins south of San Francisco.
sorry if this is boring but i could literally drone on about it for hours.
is there anything else you want to know, or have i completely turned you off the idea! i think i've got a few pictures i could send to you if you wanted them.
anyway hope everything is good with you and hopefully hear from you soon.
Great combination Harry and Ggeorge, We'll wait for the secnd instalment. Drone on Harry! Mum/Granny
Posted by: Jenifer | July 27, 2009 at 10:32 AM


It's now about a year ago that I finished reading the six volumes of Churchill's Second World War. I found it riveting and it was always a delight to return to. Not only is the history fascinating but the language is magnificent. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1953. I recommend it. Granny and Grandpa may let you borrow one volume at a time from their library. (TV room, near top right)

Here are some sound bites:

Vol IV p 494 All this shows how much luck there is in human affairs, and how little we should worry about anything except doing our best.

Vol IV p 556 Captain Mercier [a Frenchman] longed for the allied victory, but he died on his bridge in the execution of his orders [to fight Americans landing in Casablanca]. We may all be thankful if our lives have not been rent by such dire problems and conflicting loyalties.

Vol V p 30-31 The islands of Lamdedusa and Linosa also capitulated, the former to the pilot of an aircraft who had been compelled to land by lack of fuel. No enemy outpost now remained south of Sicily.

Vol V p 558 - on the eve of D-Day. Here then we might pause in thankfulness and take hope, not only for victory on all fronts and in all three elements, but also for a safe and happy future for tormented mankind.

Vol V Appendix C p 618 PM to Home Secretary 3/4/1944. Let me have a report on why the Witchcraft Act 1735 was used in a modern court of justice.

Vol VI p 553 At any rate, there was never a moments discussion as to whether the atomic bomb should be used or not. To avert a vast, indefinite butchery, to bring the war to an end, to give peace to the world, to lay healing hands on its tortured peoples by a manifestation of overwhelming power at the cost of a few explosions, seemed, after all our toils and perils, a miracle of deliverance.
Nothing gives greater pleasure than knowing something that we have appreciated and kept for nearly 60 years is now being enjoyed by you. Mum.
Posted by: Jenifer | July 03, 2009 at 11:00 PM

I think I was inspired by you to start reading Churchill's great opus. I am now close to the end of Volume 2 and enjoying the account enormously. As you say, both the factual account and his command of the language are gripping. Many fascinating insights to humanity. Tom
ps I recall there were two copies of Vol 2 on the shelf when I borrowed the one I am reading.
Posted by: Tom | July 03, 2009 at 06:10 PM