Minor British Institutions: The British Interplanetary Society

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The Independent Online

Anyone driving around Vauxhall will have been struck by an otherwise-nondescript building emblazoned with the words "British Interplanetary Society" in big letters. It looks like the HQ of some eccentric sect dedicated to making friends with alien races, and comes from the exciting time when we could still dream of travelling to the moon, but just before we realised that, actually, space is a bit boring because there aren't any aliens out there, after all.

Founded in 1933, it is proud to be the world's oldest body "devoted solely to supporting and promoting the exploration of space and astronautics". For the BIS, the word "Interplanetary" is not just limited to "those nearby worlds that circle our Sun", but "travel across interstellar space". Or indeed Vauxhall Bridge, which can sometimes take light years to get across.