Space agencies from around the world including NASA and ESA paid tribute to the late Queen of the UK, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who died at the age of 96 on 8 September. She had been on the throne for over 70 years, celebrating her Platinum jubilee earlier this year.
While her great grandfather Edward VII was on the throne when powered flight started (the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1901 was just into the Edwardian era), it was the new Elizabethan age which heralded orbital spaceflight. She was brought up while Von Braun’s V2 (A4) rockets achieved suborbital spaceflight as they bombarded London. Five years after she ascended the throne in 1952, on 4 October 1957, the first artificial satellite Sputnik 1 was launched by the Soviet Union. Four years later, on 12 April 1961, the diminutive Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first man to orbit the Earth in his Soviet Vostok capsule. In the subsequent celebratory world tour, Yuri Gagarin came to London to visit Her Majesty.
This “space age” Queen and especially her technology loving husband, Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, were noted supporters of spaceflight and over the years visited several firms involved in spaceflight
In 1966, The Duke of Edinburgh visited the Houston Manned Space Centre, where he was presented with a Union Jack that was taken into space on Gemini 7 in December 1965.
And it was in 1969 that Her Majesty hosted the crew of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, at Buckingham Palace after their successful landing on the Moon and their safe return.
The Queen reigned throughout the Space Shuttle era and during the construction of the International Space Station (ISS), right up to the start of true reusable spaceflight with SpaceX’s activities. In 1991, Prince Philip visited NASA’s headquarters in Houston, Texas, where he sat in the command seat of a space capsule simulator, which he then had to dock. “It was like a bloody great mechanical copulator,” he amusingly said.
In 2007, as part of a State Visit to the USA, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited NASA’s Houston Mission Control, where Her Majesty spoke to three astronauts on board the ISS.
She also had an interest in the UK’s contribution to space visiting various space related establishments over the years. Having already met Dr Helen Sharman, Britain’s first astronaut, in December 2015 the Queen sent a good luck message to Britain’s second astronaut via the ESA programme, Major Timothy Peake, as he joined the ISS.
We at Seradata give our salute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who has served the UK and her other domains so well.
Post Script: We are sad to report a few other space-related deaths during September. Brian Binnie, US Navy Test Pilot and the SpaceShipOne suborbital astronaut who helped win the Ansari XPRIZE, died at the age of 69. Record-breaking Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov died at the age of 80. He currently holds the record for the longest stay in space at 337 days, set on Mir between 1994 and 1995.
And finally, in noting Her Late Majesty’s sense of humour, hew entreat you to view this story:
A story about Queen Elizabeth II that I know my friends in America will enjoy:pic.twitter.com/rFaiqH698K
— Larry the Cat (@Number10cat) September 8, 2022