Space news: We lose 'lovely, dusty' Moore, while Nasa muddles up mountains

Donald Macinnes
Saturday 15 December 2012 01:00 GMT

Two space-related news stories broke this week and, while I would hesitate to suggest they are in any way connected, I suspect I may do exactly that. Firstly, on Sunday we lost Sir Patrick Moore, an astronomer who explained more unexplainable things to more lesser-educated people than Brian "photogenic" Cox could in a month of Tuesdays.

I was lucky enough to interview Sir Patrick a few years ago and he was lovely, if very dusty. That's it: lovely and dusty, like an old owl in a baggy suit.

This week's other story saw Nasa admit the heinous crime of mountain misidentification, after it posted a picture taken from the International Space Station and claimed that it showed Mount Everest. In actual fact, spaceman Yuri Malenchenko had photographed the Indian peak, Saser Muztagh, which sits in the Karakoram range, an entirely separate windswept wilderness covered with snow. An easy mistake to make? Perhaps.

Now I'm not suggesting that this sort of orbit-based geological faux pas wouldn't have happened on Sir Patrick's watch, but look at the facts. The man passes away and mere days later Nasa (which never, ever gets anything wrong) suddenly starts getting things wrong. It's a little worrying. I really can't stress enough how important it is that we have confidence in our space experts. If Nasa can't ID the biggest mountain on the planet, how is it going to land astronauts on Mars? We could end up on Neptune… and we all know what a dump THAT is.

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