We choose to go to the Moon, old boy. Pip Pip

It’s a (criminally) little know fact that at one point after WW2 Britain had a space programme not only did we succeed in putting one satellite in orbit but we also managed to build a series of launch vehicles. Some now sit in various museums alongside the V weapons and in London, Apollo 10’s Command module. To date we’re the only country to create a home grown rocket and launch a satellite then give up. Prospero (after the sorcerer who gives up his powers in ‘The Tempest’) was launched after the cancellation of the programme. A victim of the post war economy and a decision to abandon it in favour of US built rockets.

Britains space programme languished in a sort of purgatory from the cancellation of the original programme until the mid 1980’s when the government started the HOTOL project, however like every other attempt that too was marked top secret and shut down. Since then if you wanted to be an astronaut you have to go to the US, which is what Piers Sellers and Michael Foale did or be funded privately like Helen Sharman.

So that sad tortured history of false starts brings us to now, the days of the MoD, DTI and BNSC are long gone, the UK Space Agency now calls the shots and thanks to pretty healthy financial circumstances (the UK space industry was one of the few sectors to grow during the recession) we now have a proper astronaut slated to launch next year in November, the UK government is actively supporting Skylon which is the successor to HOTOL and is making good progress, and an announcement this summer about the construction of a spaceport in the UK is all promising that this time UK Space is on the right trajectory.

So this brings me to today, on November 19 a consortium known as Lunar one announced a crowdfunding appeal for £500 million, this would be used to fund and land a probe on the Lunar South pole. Today the overview of the scientific mission was announced. The Lander will drill 100m into the surface and return information about the moons composition and whether it would be feasible not only for a lunar base but also as a place to site telescopes away from interference from the Earth. Not only this but people can pay to send pictures, text messages and hair samples on the lander as a way of “immortality” now theres £460,922 pledged of £600,000 goal with 
9 days to go. So as you can see, so very near the goal, of having something British on the moon, and not just a few bits of metal on Mars and a sad legacy of what could have been. So in the words of Prospero:

“But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,”



After weeks of nervous waiting the moment of dread arrived. Sitting in my Inbox was a link to a page that would either make me happy, or tell me the last 9 months were a waste. Yes, it was result time. The good news was it was a Pass, the bad news was it wasn’t a high one. Granted a lot was happening over the last few months, with finally moving to a new flat on a leafy street in Sunderland and thousands of other distractions the result was going to be a low one.

I’ll still take the Pass and there’s still the issue of transferring all my previous study over if I can (although it would mean less time studying I’d rather start from scratch) But it’s nice to know there’s still life in the old dog yet.

Next decision is what to study next, looking at my transcripts from Sunderland there’s credits missing at level one and two but only one module starting in February which is the Level one Arts Past and Present which means I will have to spend a few months not mocking Art students until the “proper” History modules are starting.

E – Day

So after many months of toil tears and procrastination the day of the AA312 exam arrived, not for me the quiet confidence that I had it “in the bag” the mad scramble and reading the books on the metro to the venue will do.

And what a stroke of luck that one of the questions dealt with what I had studied. It feels weird that for the first time in nearly 8 years I’m not studying. I’m in a limbo, waiting for this result to see what I can do next, as a bonus the result day is just before Christmas so it’s either going to be happy. Or brutally crushing.

The addiction of Science

About a year and a half ago I was what society would label a “geek,” I owned a telescope and a pile of New Scientists that posed a serious  structural risk of killing a small child. I loved science, I watched documentaries constantly, read anything that was remotely linked to science and even began a degree in it. All of which I loved.

Then I got bored, one day it just didn’t click. I couldn’t get past a certain page in the course book and realised that what held me back was my poor grasp of Maths. Now don’t get me wrong, I was awful at school, luckily I forgot all I learned there and began to teach myself, adapting  it so I could understand it. But it wasn’t enough. As time went on I grew further away from Science and went back to my other passion which is History. Finally plucking up the courage to attempt to complete the degree I was already nearly finished with.

A part of me still yearns to dive into a paper on Physics or to look up and count the stars imagining what could be orbiting them. Recently I’ve begun to indulge it again, like an addiction. I’ve picked up the level 2 science books and started to work my way through it, without the pain of a time scale or exams and Essays to worry about. When I moved to History I told myself that I would go back to physics and at least work through it before paying to resit the courses. Of course life has a habit of getting in the way sometimes, in a way I’m thankful that the Government paid for my first course while I was on Jobseeker’s this is a brilliant Idea and I think is more useful than any work programme  and at least then I had time to do it all.

I’ve always had this problem of not being focuses my tutors at Uni always said it and so did my ones with the OU, I think trying to resist the urge to go back would be a bigger personal victory. Although I’m a year away from finishing the History one so there’s plenty of time. I just hope the standard model still prevails. I’d hate to have to learn a new one.


An AA312 moan.

Results for TMA04 of AA312 are in. I managed to take the exact same step backwards from the last one. I don’t know quite what is happening. I’m assuming its just boredom with the course, it’s very dry and the guidance on what to do is abysmal. Couple this with a tutor change who does things the complete opposite of the last one and it’s becoming a nightmare.

One of the main problems I have with the “Distance learning” approach is the lack of interaction especially with the staff, looking on the  message board for the course one or two of the tutors are very active, one puts a ton of notes and further guidance on the forum and if it weren’t for him most would have been further up the proverbial creek without a method of propulsion. However this is not without its pitfalls, I’ve followed his advice only to have the TMA come back and with dropped marks for following the guidance and can easily say what is a good pass for one tutor is a bare pass for another. In a way this inconsistency puts you at a disadvantage if your tutor isn’t active, yes you can get in touch with them on the phone or email but for me finding the time to get it done is a struggle. Some people rely on the information in the forums and can’t make the tutorials or “elluminate” sessions.

Luckily as with every other course the Facebook group is brilliant and always good for a laugh or a moan, and my experience with the set up for this course is no way indicative of the other courses I have done.

Next time I go with the Baldrick Answer (Degree Update)

So after a wait which was extended due to personal circumstances my result for TMA02 finally landed today. Now for a bit of background I had to apply for an extension on this and struggled insanely with it. The question related to whether WW1 was a calculated gamble on Germany’s part (FYI it was.)

Now I was expecting to fail this outright no matter what I couldn’t fit everything in I wanted to especially within 2000 words. However despite the nagging doubt I did manage to clear that magical 40 mark with room below it to put in a games room, maybe a pool table and a jukebox too.

I was quite happy with the mark, the work was pap, it was something a 3 year old could come up with. Instead of writing 2000 words I should have just wrote “It was because a man called archie duke shot an ostrich.”

Next TMA is due in next week about the barbarity of the first world war. Frankly a score lower than what I got today will result in me questioning everything about my self and what I’ve read since I can remember.

Up diddly up.

OU Update.

My tutor, being the brilliant gentleman he is, has given me a one week extension to complete the second TMA for AA312. Which was nice as it means I can actually do a decent job on finding out whether WW1 was a massive gamble on Germany’s part.

Not only that but such is the demand for OU courses that registration has been brought forward to today. Which means I’m not even 10% of the way through Total war and I’m registered for A326 Empire. Which serves a dual purpose, 1) it means with my transfer I’ll be 10 credits off my degree and 2) I can finally read Niall Ferguson’s Empire.

So here’s to another slog through time, one more step into the unknown and finally. My degree.

As a sidenote, I took this today.

First result from #AA312

So after a lifetime of waiting I finally got my result for the first essay in AA312.


Which is low for me but bearing in mind it was a last minute rush at a skill (commentating on an extract) I’m quite bad in. Also add in the fact this was my first History essay in 3 years, on a level 3 course and I’m pretty chuffed. I was quite pleased to see about 3 comments on the essay which were mainly “I agree” “Nice use of source” and “good point.”

Not only that but there is plenty to take forward into the second TMA. Hopefully that one will be higher.

Early Christmas present (Degree update)

One thing I love about the Open University is “New book day” this is when the course materials finally arrive and you can get a better look at what the course will be like.

This one looks more different than I imagined, gone is the pictures and rather condescending attitude. Also gone are the questions with the answers in the back. Now we have questions and a model answer, of course there is no right or wrong answer like you get with the science books so the model answers are also up for debate.

The books are much better put together than others and the map books and the art guide are lovely and some will definitely end up on the wall once the course is done.

Also the fact it’s here 2 months before the start date isn’t too shabby. First up “Europe in 1914”

*and yes I already quoted Blackadder in one of the questions

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of AA312 total war.

As you may be aware I’m currently in the process of changing my degree from a Natural Sciences to a History one, the logic was sound, why start on a new degree when there is one sitting almost finished. Well after some careful (3 seconds) consideration I finally got sorted and I’m now registered for AA312, Total war and Social change. Although from what I’ve read it’s more social change than total war. As this is a level 3 course and one of the toughest ones in the Arts and Humanities department it’s going to consume a lot of time.

It’s been sort of rushed really, needing to be studying for the degree by August/September when the fees hike up so I get the 5 years at the old £700 for a 60 point course and not £3000 has dictated the pace. But I’ve seen the books I know the subject pretty well and the  course I did at Sunderland overlaps with the course for the inter-war years.

That being said I’ve not given up on Science, I hope to squeeze a few more qualifications out of that when I get this degree wrapped up in 1-2 years.

For a bit of preparation I’m currently reading a few books which I may review at a later time, but I’ve just finished watching “Pearl Harbor: The Day after” and frankly Roosevelt off his tits on Cocaine was the real revelation. But it was a brilliant documentary on Nat Geo or Sky anytime.