The Race for Space

I am a nut for anything relating to the Apollo Space Programme.

That's why the recent album, The Race for Space, is my favourite thing right now.

It's by the band Public Service Broadcasting, which uses archive sound (such as newsreels, propaganda films, etc) as the backbone for their music.

They even have a brilliant song from a previous album about my other obsession, Mount Everest.

So with songs about space AND Mount Everest, it's unsurprising I've been gushing about them on the Hello Internet podcast. Even CGP Grey had nice things to say.

Hear us discuss the album here at 67'50"

The podcast discussion led to many listeners trying (and buying) the album.

This came to the attention of the band's main man, J. Willgoose Esq, who subsequently agreed to meet and appear in a special episode of Objectivity.

(I think a chance to visit The Royal Society and meet Keith was the real incentive!)

The video loosely followed a few of the key songs on the album (and hence the space race itself).


Second track on the album but first object in our video - it's Sputnik, the first human-made satellite to orbit the Earth.

Our object, from the Royal Society archives, was this Sputnik replica.

It seems unclear who gave it to the society, but presumably it was a Russian delegation blowing their own trumpets (quite rightly!)

The model included a button which no longer works, but an enclosed circuit diagram hints the model is capable of producing Sputnik's famous beep-beep-beep.


The PSB song Gagarin has quite the music video...

And we had some impressive objects to match it.

The first man in space, Gagarin visited the Royal Society on 13 July, 1961 - just three months after his famous space flight.

It was clearly a big deal for the society and it appears they started a new visitor's book specially.

The first signature on the on first page is Gagarin himself (written in his native Cyrillic script of course).

The page includes other interesting signatures from the event - including Howard Florey (society president at the time and Nobel Prizewinner for penicillin), Bernard Lovell (Jodrell Bank director and UK science icon) and Nikolai Kamanin (aviation hero and head of Russian cosmonaut training).

There was also a great stash of photos from the visit, including this one of Gagarin and Howard Florey (Florey was from my home city of Adelaide so gets more blog mentions than he should).

I was also very excited by this one of Gagarin with Isaac Newton's telescope.

Also among the archive items was a copy of the day's programme.

And yes Gagarin had signed it...


The Race for Space album also features a track about the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova.

(another great video by the way)

The same visitor book signed by Gagarin was used again for the Tereshkova visit. She is the top signature.

After all this Russian triumph, I then then took J. to see items relating to the American cherry on top - the Apollo lunar landings!


There are numerous souvenirs donated by visiting atsronuats.

Perhaps my favourite relates to Apollo 8 - which is also the subject of my favourite song on the album, The Other Side. Listen to this one if nothing else!!!

In the society archive is this huge picture of the moon's far side, signed by the mission's commander, Frank Borman.

I think it might be this one of the lunar far side (which we never see from Earth). The image is AS08-14-2453.

Also in the archive were two Apollo 15 photos signed by the entire crew - Dave Scott, Jim Irwin and Al Worden.

And just as The Race for Space album ends with an emotive song from the final moon landing, Apollo 17, our video also ended with a photo from Apollo 17.

Harrison Schmitt (the only scientist to walk on the moon) had signed and written a message on this photo showing the Earth peaking past the moon's limb.

And again here is our video of the whole adventure in the archives with J. Willgoose Esq, from Public Service Broadcasting.