The moon is such a familiar presence in the sky that most of us take it for granted. But what if it wasn’t where it is now? How would that affect life on earth?
Space scientist and lunar fanatic Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock explores our intimate relationship with the moon. Besides orchestrating the tides, the moon dictates the length of a day, the rhythm of the seasons and the very stability of our planet.
Yet the moon is always on the move. In the past it was closer to the Earth and in the future it’ll be farther away. That it is now perfectly placed to sustain life is pure luck, a cosmic coincidence. Using computer graphics to summon up great tides and set the Earth spinning on its side, Aderin-Pocock implores us to look at the moon afresh: to see it not as an inert rock, but as a key player in the story of our planet, past, present and future.
Copyright by BBC © 2012. No copyright infringement intended. Purely for educational purposes.
Maggie Aderin-Pocock,MBE (born 1968) is aBritish space scientist.
Personal life and education
Aderin-Pocock was born in London to Nigerian parents. She attendedLa Sainte Union Convent School in North London. She has dyslexia and, as a child, when she told a teacher she wanted to be an astronaut, it was suggested she try nursing, “as that was science too”.
However she gained four A Levels in maths, physics, chemistry and biology.
She went on to study at Imperial College London, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering.
Aderin-Pocock has worked on many projects, from private industry to government contracts to academic research. She began in the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency on missile warning systems. She then worked on hand-held instruments to detect landmines. Aderin-Pocock moved back to Imperial College London in 1999 with a Fellowship from the Science and Technology Facilities Council to work on a high-resolution spectrograph for the Gemini telescope in Chile, which probes the heart of stars by converting the starlight gathered by huge telescopes into the component rainbow colours, and then analyses them to work out what’s happening billions of miles away.
She is the lead scientist for the optical instrumentation group forAstrium. She is working on and managing the observation instruments for the Aeolus satellite, which will measure wind speeds to help the investigation of climate change. Aderin-Pocock is also helping to coordinate the development of the Mid-Infrared Instrument for theJames Webb Space Telescope, the planned replacement for the Hubble, and on other infrared mechanisms for monitoring climate change and on other optical systems and bespoke instrumentation for future space missions.
She is also a pioneering figure in communicating science to the public, specifically school children, and also runs her own company, Science Innovation Ltd, which engages children and adults all over the world with the wonders of space science. Aderin-Pocock is committed to inspiring new generations of astronauts, engineers and scientists and she has spoken to about 25,000 children, many of them at inner-city schools telling them how and why she is a scientist, busting myths about careers, class and gender.
Through this Aderin-Pocock conducts “Tours of the Universe”, a scheme she set up to engage school children and adults around the world in the wonders of space. She also helps encourage scientific endeavours of young people by being a celebrity judge at the National Science + Engineering Competition. The Finals of this competition are held at The Big Bang Fair in March each year to reward young people who have acheived excellence in a science, technology, engineering or maths project.
Aderin-Pocock was the scientific consultant for the 2009 mini-series Paradox, and also appeared on Doctor Who Confidential.
In February 2011 she presented ‘Do We Really Need the Moon?’ on BBC 2. She also presented In Orbit: How Satellites Rule Our World on BBC 2 on 26 March 2012.
She holds a Science in Society Fellowship awarded in 2006 by theScience and Technology Facilities Council, as well as an Honorary Doctorate from Staffordshire University for her contributions to the field of science education. In 2006 she was one of six ‘Women of Outstanding Achievement’ winners with GetSET Women and in 2009 she was awarded a Member of the British Empire for her services to science and education.