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Broadcaster, xylophonist and amateur astronomer royal, Patrick Moore was on an extracommercial visit to Scotland to launch TV Astronomer (Harrap, £12.95). He had made a perfect landing in a swanky hotel and when I joined his orbit he was dipping a linger into a crater of cream. He had already made a considerable impression on it. I shook hands with what could have been an astronaut’s mit and then asked what every ignorant stargazerwants to know, is there life on Mars?
‘No, I’m pretty certainthere isn’t. When we started ‘The Sky At Night’ thirty years ago we thought there was life on Mars. ldon’t mean Martians. They went a long time ago. But we thought vegetation might survive and we actually constructed a Martian laboratory and showed it on The Sky At Night. I putthattogetherwith a microbiologist colleague. It was a large airtight cabinet and we filled it with Martian atmosphere — chielly nitrogen — and subjected cactus to it. It didn’t like it. After a single Martian night it went limp but we decided, lor reasons that Mrs Whitehouse would object to now, not to show it on the programme. Later probes showed we’d been working with completely erroneous data. In the mid-1970s the Viking probes made controlled landings on the red Martian deserts and I’m prepared to bet lairly heavily that it there is life on Mars it’s very very lonely.‘
But a Moon man.
‘I was one of the official Moon mappers in the days belore Apollo. Lunar cartography is now completed because all the probes have been round and men have been there.’
So should young astronomers point their telescopes elsewhere?
‘It depends entirely on what you want
to do. You see, I ran as an amateur. I'm a lull member of the lnternaitonal Astronomical Union. My doctorate in science is an honorary one. I missed university because the war came along. ljoined the Air Force instead. If you’re going to take up astronomy now as a careeryou‘ve got to have a good science degree and you’ve got to be a mathematician. There are very lew prolessional astronomers now concentrating on the Moon. They are very busy with objects beyond the Solar System.’
Surelythough, there’s still room for enthusiastic amateurs, isn’t there? ‘Oh yes, Today astronomy is just about the only science which has prolessionals and amateurs working together, where amateurs are very warmly welcomed by the prolessionals. Amateurs do things that prolessionals don’t want to do, or can’tdo, or genuinely don’t have the time to do. Amateurs till gaps. Butl must say that having done The Sky At Night for thirty years it does give me a tremendous thrill to meet well-known prolessional astronomers who actually began by having their interest aroused by reading a book I’d written or watched the programme.’
But wouldn‘t it be betterto go up and have a probe around himself? Hadn’t he wanted to blast off?
‘I knew from the word go I was too old. I got it a bit wrong. When I was young I was torocastlng the llrst artilicial satellltcs would go up in the Iater19508, and l was right. In: wrong to say the llrst man would stand on the moon in the 19808. Itwas, of course, 1969. Arthur c. Clarke got it right. I’d love to have gone up, but I’m a realist.‘
So what, realistically, could we expect next to hove into sight? What's next on the space programme?
‘What we’ve got to look lorward to now is the Hubble telescope, the 94in rellectorwhich is to be launched into space. It would have been up there now but lor that ghastly disaster with the Challenger. The Hubble will be operating about300 miles above the Earth’s surtace, above the atmosphere. It will be far more effective than any telescope down here and it may provide us with some fundamental discoveries. There are also going to be major space stations. The next actual space shot is going to be the Russian probe to Mars scheduled tornext January.’ (Alan Taylor)
Alternatively. say that you have no other form ofcontraception (whether that‘s a lie or not) and isist that your partner wears a condom effectively ie not at the end or in the middle but at the beginning of intercourse.
Use a diaphragm with a spermicidal foam (again water-based).
Practise safer sex. Don‘t have intercourse. Many preferthe ‘foreplay‘ and touching side ofsex. Now is your chance to say so. Combined with the above. try and find out something ofyour prospective partner‘s sexual history. lfhe has come into contact with
intravenous drug users or is bi-sexual or has had sex with anyone else who has come into contact with one of the above. then be careful.
As Ms Richardson observed. ‘We know how to stop the spread of this virus by wearing a thin piece of rubber — so why don't we'.’ lt‘s ludicrous that male egos and general embarrassment may cost people their lives.’
Worn en an d the A [US Crisis also contains sections on lesbians and AIDS; living with AlDS;caring for people with AIDS; a very helpful glossary. and an index of relevant organisations.
48 The List 15 — 28 May