Oral history of British science

Parkinson, Bob (Part 15 of 15). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering; Space Science and Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    The British Library

  • Interviewees

    Parkinson, Bob, 1941- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 15: Remarks on 'retirement': taking leave from Astrium in 2002; travelling around the world, anecdote about arriving on time; consultancy work for ESA on Aurora Mars programme, passing on skills to younger engineers; becoming examiner for astronautics course and lecturer in space propulsion at Cranfield; helping BIS run 2008 International Astronautical Congress in Glasgow. [05:45] Remarks on activities outside work: painting, helping amateur dramatics group with centenary; travelling abroad to make up for not seeing much whilst working. [06:55] Remarks on interest in art: painting space topics; doing badly at art at school; getting interested at university; finding project illustrators interesting; painting in gouache, until family gave him set of oil paints; membership International Association of Astronomical Artists. [10:05] Comments on children: 1979 David born, 1984 Becky born; David, bright, studied Astrophysics at Edinburgh, works in Brisbane, Australia; Becky, severe learning difficulties, in care since a teenager; split from wife Elizabeth, a pathology technician, in 1999. [16:50] Comments about enjoying his busy life: anecdote about a discussion at a party; story about caring for children whilst wife was away; some personal costs; marriage split. [21:25] Remarks on career drivers: interest in space, reading Dan Dare as a child; enjoying changing things; individuality, winning by doing something different to other people, with remarks on his art. [24:05] Discussion on future for space science: 1989 vision of future in 'Citizens of the Sky', written by BP on prompting of Mark Hempsell, imagining a world where HOTOL approach led to increased human space flight; change in BP view over recent years, not expecting human beings to walk on Mars in their current form due to impact of computers and artificial intelligence; [28:55 odd rumbling] possibility of mapping Mars with satellites, and allowing people to explore simulations of it on Earth; team remotely running Mars exploration rovers being on Mars, in a sense, already; computer revolution happening now and making predicting future hard; drawbacks of long gestation period of space missions; possibility of micro missions. [33:50] Comments on working with the media: consultancy for BSB space opera TV series 'Jupiter Moon'; mismatch between the the engineering mindset and the need for technology to fail for dramatic purposes. Remarks on consultancy for 'Mission to Mars:, advice on vehicles and mission profile, with assistance of of Steve Kemble and Stanley Borowski; [38:10] BIS involvement; anecdote about staying with the husband of the Canadian contact for 'Mission to Mars', whilst at International Space University, with remarks on on their long distance relationship. [40:20] Comments on differences between media and scientists, anecdote about 'Jupiter Moon' writer considering science as magic. [43:30] Comments on politics: politics and economics more important than engineering; British differences from other European countries; consequences of positioning of British space ministers in Department of Trade and Industry, rather than in Department of Science and Education as in France, with reference to Roy Gibson and BNSC; small size of space budget, meaning that winning over Space minister not always productive; [50:10] example of ENVISAT being a political success; best things BP has done note necessarily being things that actually flew, such as Mars sample return; BP proud of concurrent engineering practices. [52:45] Comments on current activities: teaching at Cranfield and Queen Mary University; President of BIS; desire to write textbook on systems engineering; consultancy work on projects. [Closed between 56:20  -58:45] Comments on: archives, disposing of papers along the way, mainly using computer today, still retaining paperwork; anecdote about a conversation about electronics miniaturisation with a friend who worked for GCHQ. [1:03:10] Remarks on interview.

  • Description

    Interview with aerospace engineer Dr Bob Parkinson.

  • Related transcripts

    Dr Bob Parkinson interviewed by Tom Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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