Category Archives: Beary Celebrations

Elevenses With Paddington Bear

Another day, another movie…

Today little bears are watching Paddington while enjoying marmalade and cherry jam elevenses.

Paddington is famously known for his taste for marmalade. We’ll have to introduce him to cherry delights 🙂

And for liking elevenses, Paddington joins little bears and Winnie-the-Pooh as one of the leading advocates of elevenses. A favourite scene from this delightful film is the visit to an antique shop for elevenses. Tea is served from a little spout in a steam train, and sugar served from one of the open carriages.

Little bears like having elevenses in delightful antique shops. Even better, antique shops called Paddington 🙂

Paddington Antique Centre, Brisbane
Paddington Antique Centre, Brisbane
Exploring Paddington Antique Centre

What do we know about Paddington Bear?

Michael Bond, who at the time was a BBC TV cameraman for a popular children’s show called Blue Peter, was inspired to create Paddington after buying a small neglected toy bear 😦 on Christmas Eve in 1956.

Michael Bond decided to name the iconic British bear after London Paddington Station because he and his wife were living near it at the time. The film crew had to get special permission to film on the concourse of the station.

Sally Hawkins as Mrs Mary Brown and Paddington at Paddington Station

In 2000, a life-sized bronze statue of Paddington was installed at his namesake Paddington station in London.

Paddington Bear Statue at Paddington Station

Google honored Paddington’s 50th birthday on October 13, 2008 with a Google Doodle.

More than 50 individually designed Paddington Bear statues were scattered across London to celebrate the city’s art and culture from November to December 2014.

Ben Whishaw, also known as Q in the James Bond franchise, is the voice of the iconic bear in its eponymous film Paddington.

The adventures of the little bear from “darkest Peru” have been delighting generations of children since 1958 when the first Paddington book appeared, A Bear Called Paddington written by Michael Bond and illustrated by Peggy Fortnum.

More than 35 million books have sold worldwide and there have been several TV adaptations, but this is the first big screen appearance for the marmalade-loving bear, who appears alongside a starry cast including Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Bonneville and Julie Walters.

Hugh Bonneville, Nicole Kidman, Samuel Joslin, Madeleine Harris, Paul King and Jim Broadbent attend the Paddington World Premiere in London Leicester Square on Sunday Nov. 23rd, 2014.
(Picture by Jon Furniss)

With its colourful shots of double-decker buses, red telephone boxes and black taxis, and cameo roles from some of London’s most famous landmarks, the film must feel like a gift to the city’s tourist board. Publicity shots show Paddington standing in front of Buckingham Palace, and the film’s climax takes place in the Natural History Museum, where the evil taxidermist Millicent (Nicole Kidman) wants to add Paddington to her collection of endangered animals!

Buckingham Palace
National History Museum

Paddington 2 is scheduled for release at the end of the year.

Puffles and Honey met Paddington at Hamley’s 🙂

At Hamleys with Paddington Bear

They have a lot in common, as little bears with a taste for adventures and for elevenses 🙂 but not for the mishaps!

Paddington sent little Puffles a birthday present, a blue coat thoughtfully embroidered with his initials, Puffles Bear 🙂 He’ll have to grow into it!

The Big One

It’s here, it’s here!

My very own Saturn V rocket 🙂

We saw a Saturn V rocket model at the National Air & Space Museum

1:48 Scale Model of Saturn V Launch Vehicle, National Air & Space Museum

And then we saw the big rocket at the Kennedy Space Centre!

(Part of) Saturn V, Kennedy Space Centre
Saturn V on display in the Apollo / Saturn V Centre, Kennedy Space Centre
Apollo/Saturn V Centre, Kennedy Space Centre

The Saturn V rocket model has been released as part of the LEGO Ideas line of fan-designed kits. It is made of 1,969 bricks, a nod to the year in which humans first set down and walked on the lunar surface. Another group of Lego fans took their rocket to Space Centre Houston to meet its much bigger sibling 🙂

The Saturn V expendable rocket was a three-stage liquid-fuelled super heavy-lift launch vehicle developed to support the Apollo program for human exploration of the Moon. The Saturn V was launched 13 times from the Kennedy Space Centre with no loss of crew or payload. As of 2017, the Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful (highest total impulse) rocket ever brought to operational status, and holds records for the heaviest payload launched and largest payload capacity to low Earth orbit of 140,000 kg, which included the third stage and unburned propellant needed to send the Apollo Command/Service Module and Lunar Module to the Moon.

We saw the Command Module that was the living quarters for Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins during their 8-day journey to the moon in July 1969!

Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, National Air & Space Museum

And we walked the very same launch pad gantry used by the astronauts of Apollo 11!

Walking in the footsteps of Apollo 11 astronauts, Kennedy Space Centre

Cool, more toys!

And a moon landing birthday cake for me!

Happy Birthday Puffles!

Mmmm, we got the chocolate side of the moon! 🙂

Time for cake…

And a favourite movie…

Hidden Figures

With a maths professor on set, the calculations that appear on screen in Hidden Figures really do add up – and that adherence to real-life accuracy permeates the entire film.

Hidden Figures

Rudy Horne, associate professor at Morehouse College, Georgia, helped the film-makers avoid mathematics mistakes by coaching the actors, as well as providing many of the equations seen in the film on blackboards or in workbooks. “I admit I was surprised that the folks for Hidden Figures had done their homework as far as getting a sense of what type of mathematics was being used at NASA during the time of John Glenn’s orbit,” he says. “I got this sense from my very first meeting with the production people.”

This attention to accuracy was also extended to the portrayal of the mathematicians themselves. Instead of perpetuating the usual movie stereotype of maths as an esoteric pursuit for troubled geniuses – think of Matt Damon’s Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting or Russell Crowe’s John Nash in A Beautiful MindHidden Figures portrays the subject as a part of normal life. Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan did their work and also had real lives, dealing with real problems.

Of all the contributions Rudy Horne made to Hidden Figures, the one that makes him particularly proud is introducing writer-director Theodore Melfi to Euler’s method, an 18th century procedure for solving differential equations. In the scene in question, Katherine Johnson hits on Euler’s method as a means of solving a problem that’s been perplexing all of NASA’s great minds. “That’s ancient!” says someone else in the room. “Yes,” replies Johnson, “but it works. It works numerically.”

It’s likely that only a tiny fraction of the audience for Hidden Figures will have heard of either Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler or his method, but the scene keeps its power regardless. And seeing inspiration strike a brilliant mind like Katherine Johnson’s, especially after she has been doubted for so long, is a pure cinematic thrill.

Out of This World Party

We can go anywhere we like! NASA gave us a passport to explore space!

This cocktail is out of this world! It’s a Samarian Sunset!

The best time to visit Mercury is in March. In March 1975, NASA’s Mariner 10 made its third and final flyby of Mercury. Then in March 2011, NASA’s Messenger became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. Next up is ESA’s BepiColombo, undergoing testing now, set to launch for Mercury in 2018.

Mars just isn’t the quiet neighbourhood it used to be. There are currently six orbiters (NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, MAVEN, ESA’s Mars Express and ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission) and two rovers (NASA’s Curiosity and Opportunity) exploring Mars. It is second only to Earth in the number of robotic spacecraft studying its secrets.

Galileo Galilei and Simon Marius apparently discovered Jupiter’s four largest moons, or satellites, around the same time in 1610. Galileo initially named his discovery the Cosmica Sidera (Cosimo’s stars), but the names that eventually prevailed were chosen by Simon Marius (suggested to him by Johannes Kepler) — Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. These are the names we use today.

Saturn was the most distant of the five planets known to the ancients. In 1610, Galileo Galilei was the first to gaze at Saturn through a telescope. He thought there were other objects attached to the planet. It was Christiaan Huygens in 1659, using a more powerful telescope than Galileo’s, who proposed that Saturn was surrounded by a thin, flat ring. In 1675, Jean-Dominique Cassini discovered a “division” between what are now called the A and B rings. We now know that the gravitational influence of Saturn’s moon Mimas is responsible for the Cassini Division, which is 4,800 kilometres wide.

Uranus was discovered on March 13, 1781 by William Herschel. The English astronomer wanted to name his discovery — the first planet discovered in recorded history — Georgium Sidus after England’s King George III. But he was overruled, and astronomers stuck with traditional mythological names — creating an opportunity for 236 years of student jokes at the expense of the ice giant planet’s name. Hee, hee!

Yuri’s Night

Look Honey! We have a coin celebrating Yuri Gagarin.

Yuri’s Night is a global celebration of humanity’s past, present, and future in space. Yuri’s Night parties and events are held around the world every April 12 in commemoration of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human to venture into space on April 12, 1961 and the first human to see Earth from space.

Three-quarter profile head-and-shoulders view of Soviet cosmonaut Major Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin in pressure suit and helmet (faceplate raised), probably on or about April 12, 1961, when he made his orbital space flight in Vostok 1.

Some people have argued that Gagarin does not qualify for the title “the first man in space” because he didn’t land inside his aircraft. When Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth on 12 April 1961, the plan had never been for him to land inside his Vostok 1 spacecraft. His spherical re-entry capsule came through the Earth’s atmosphere on a ballistic trajectory. Soviet engineers had not yet perfected a braking system that would slow the craft sufficiently for a human to survive impact. They decided to eject the cosmonaut from his craft. Yuri Gagarin ejected at 7 kilometres from the ground and deployed a parachute at 2.5 kilometres in altitude before landing safely on Earth. Soviet engineers had not discussed this shortcoming with Soviet delegates to the FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) prior to his flight. They prepared their documents for the FAI omitting this fact. This led everyone to believe that Gagarin had landed inside his spacecraft. It was not until four months later, when Gherman Stepanovich Titov became the second human to orbit the Earth on Vostok 2 and the first person to spend a full day in space (circling Earth 17 times), when the controversy began to brew. Titov owned up to ejecting himself. This led to a special meeting of the delegates to the FAI to re-examine Titov’s spaceflight records. The conclusion of the delegates was to rework the parameters of human spaceflight to recognize that the great technological accomplishment of spaceflight was the launch, orbiting and safe return of the human, not the manner in which he or she landed. Gagarin and Titov’s records remained on the FAI books. Yes, Gagarin did not follow the rules that the FAI established before his flight. However, as is true with any sports organization, the FAI reserved the right to re-examine and reinterpret its rules in light of new knowledge and circumstances. Yuri Gagarin remains indisputably the first person in space and the concept that the first cosmonauts had to land inside their spacecraft is a faded artefact of the transition from aviation to spaceflight.

Even after Soviet-made models of the Vostok spacecraft made it clear that the craft had no braking capability, in 1968 the FAI created the Yuri Gagarin Gold Medal that it awards annually to greatest aviation or space achievement of the previous year.

In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin carried tokens with them to the Moon, to honour three US astronauts and two cosmonauts who died during the early days of spaceflight. One of those symbols, a medal, honoured Yuri Gagarin. The medal is still on the Moon today. A crater on the Moon is named for Gagarin as is asteroid 1772 Gagarin.

Yuri Gagarin was born on a farm in a region west of Moscow in the Soviet Union (now Russia). He learned to fly as a teen and began training as a military pilot at the age of 22. Just two years after Gagarin graduated from flight school, the Soviets began looking for candidates to become cosmonauts (the Soviet term of astronauts). Out of 3000 applicants, they chose 20 men. Gagarin was one of them.

Training in the program was intense. It involved not only technical study and flight training, but also physical and psychological tests. In January 1961, Gagarin was one of 6 candidates chosen for the final testing. As the hopeful cosmonauts prepared for the tests, tragedy touched the Soviet space program. One of the candidates died when fire broke out during a training session. Gagarin and the other four candidates continued with their training.

On April 8, 1961, Soviet officials chose Gagarin to be the first cosmonaut in space. His warm personality was a deciding factor. Officials thought Gagarin would make a good impression in his ensuing wave of public appearances as the first person in space. The next day, Gagarin was told of the decision.

On April 12, 1961, Gagarin entered a Vostok spacecraft to fly on his mission, named Vostok 1, at Baikonur Cosmodrome. At 9:07 am local time, the command to ignite the booster rocket was given. Over the radio Gagarin said, Poyekhali! (“Here we go!”). The rocket began to rise and the booster was ejected. Gagarin and his capsule were in orbit.

Model of Vostok 3KA spacecraft with third stage of launcher. (Wikipedia)

Gagarin orbited Earth once, completing the trip in 108 minutes. Radio communications was lost briefly between tracking stations and the lack of contact worried officials. However, communications was soon resumed – to everyone’s great relief.

Gagarin did not actually fly the spacecraft during his trip. Soviet officials worried that the first cosmonaut might do something wrong, and they locked the controls. He did have a code to unlock them if anything went wrong.

The spacecraft re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere was difficult. The last set of booster rockets was discarded just before re-entry, but they did not completely separate. That caused the spacecraft to jostle as it headed back to the ground. As the spacecraft neared Earth, Gagarin opened a hatch and ejected from the capsule. He opened a parachute and reached the ground in a gentle descent. The historic first spaceflight by humans had been achieved.

This handy infographic gives details of Gagarin’s flight.

Fearing losing Gagarin in a fatal space accident, Soviet officials banned him from any more spaceflights. (President John F. Kennedy essentially did the same to John Glenn, the first US astronaut to orbit Earth in 1962, covertly banning him from any more spaceflights. In 1964, when John Glenn realised this, he left NASA.) Gagarin remained in the space program, helping to train new cosmonauts. In the middle 1960s, Gagarin was promised he could go into space once more and he began flying planes again to regain his status as a pilot. He died in a training flight in 1968 (age 34) when his airplane crashed. (John Glenn did get to fly into space again, on October 29, 1998, aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, becoming the world’s oldest astronaut, at 77.)

Legend says that Gagarin had to relieve himself on the way to the launch pad. And today (male) cosmonauts do so as well: “They leave the bus and stand at the back wheel of the bus, to relieve themselves,” says the European Space Agency. Chris Hadfield talks about the tradition in his book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth:

When the driver pulled over to the side of the deserted road, Roman, Tom and I were delighted to get out and breathe some fresh air. We also had a mission: to pee on the rear right tire of the bus, as Yuri Gagarin apparently had. Much is made of this as a tradition, but really, if you’re going to be locked in a rocket ship, unable to leave your seat for quite a few hours, it’s just common sense. However, we had a problem that previous crews had not: we had to figure out how to get out of our suits of downy armour. In the end the suit techs on board had to help us undo all the tricky fasteners they’d painstakingly closed not an hour before, so we were able to urinate manfully on the tire without spoiling our plumage. Female astronauts who bring little bottles of their pee to slash on the tire may feel just as self-conscious, but I doubt it.

The National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC has acquired a bronze sculpture of Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in commemoration of the 55th anniversary year (2016) of the first manned flight to space.

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, bronze sculpture by Aleksei Dmitrievitch Leonov
National Air and Space Museum, Washington D.C.

The museum also has on display space suits that Yuri Gagarin and John Glenn wore. Both suit designs were adapted from high-altitude pressure suits.

Left: John Glenn wore this space suit on February 20, 1962
Right: Yuri Gagarin wore this SK-1 pressure suit during training exercises for his April 12, 1961, flight on Vostok

Yuri Gagarin wore this SK-1 pressure suit during training exercises for his April 12, 1961, flight on Vostok 1. Notable features include a visored helmet that is not detachable from the suit; the inflatable rubber collar for use in the event of water landing; the bright orange nylon oversuit, which has a mirror sewn into the sleeve to help the cosmonaut locate hard-to-see switches and gauges; and the grey-checked pressure liner with connectors for life-support and communications hoses. The suit also has leather-palm gloves, heavy leather boots, and a leather-covered radio headset.

John Glenn wore this space suit on February 20, 1962, when he became the first American to orbit Earth. Like the Gagarin suit, its design was adapted from high-altitude pressure suits worn by aircraft pilots. Glenn’s suit was a lightweight multi-layered garment with an aluminized nylon cover layer. Thirteen zippers, plus custom-fitted gloves, boots, and helmet, assured a snug fit.

Little Puffles and Honey don’t have a photo with Yuri Gagarin or with John Glenn, but they have a photo with the first real Buzz in space 🙂

With Buzz Lightyear and Magellan T. Bear at National Air and Space Museum

Twenty years after the historic first spaceflight by humans had been achieved, on April 12, 1981, Space Shuttle Columbia made its historic first flight becoming the first winged spaceship to orbit Earth and return to airport landing. While technically Enterprise was the first shuttle, it was not built for spaceflight. Enterprise was built for NASA as part of the Space Shuttle program to perform atmospheric test flights after being launched from a modified Boeing 747. Space Shuttle Columbia was the first space-rated orbiter in NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet.

OV-102 Columbia
Over 22 years of service Columbia completed 27 missions before disintegrating during re-entry near the end of its 28th mission, STS-107 on February 1, 2003, resulting in the deaths of all seven crew members.