Destined to be a space cadet

Chris Lee, Chief Scientist and Head of Science Programmes at the UK Space Agency

Picture of Chris Lee (in the middle of the photograph) two years after Apollo 11 with the newly built school observatory Chris helped construct, along with their woodwork teacher.

Being born in September 1957 and just before the launch of Sputnik, I suppose I was always destined to be a “space cadet”. I already had my first (tiny) telescope and had started an Apollo scrapbook from Apollo 8 onwards. I wish I still had this! My recollections of Apollo 11 spark three main memories. Firstly, I could stay up late as school holidays had started – this was a treat. Mum, Dad, my younger brother and I were gathered around a tiny black and white TV but I don’t recall too much about the late-night landing apart from the descent “countdown” and I certainly had no sense of how risky the landing had been. Dad says I never cheered and took it all very calmly.  I do recall the long, long wait for the moonwalk to then actually happen! My Mum and brother fell asleep but I kept watching and Dad stayed with me for company.  The second strong recollection is of BBC TV’s James Burke. I thought he was fantastic at the time and I still do – a true science communicator. The third was the Saturn V/Lunar models shown on the TV – I eventually got the Airfix kit for Christmas.