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The life of Sir Patrick Moore consistently proved people wrong.
During a sickly childhood in which he suffered from a heart condition
and other serious ailments,
doctors warned that he shouldn't expect a long life.
But until his death, at the age of 89,
he continued to present the monthly astronomy series The Sky At Night,
thus contradicting another conventional wisdom -
the belief that TV is a medium for beautiful young people.
Although modern media focus groups would probably advise
against putting on screen presenters in ill-fitting blazers
and monocles and regimental ties,
The Sky At Night, first screened in 1957,
achieved the record of the world's
longest-running TV show with the same presenter.
One thing I can promise you -
if I'm still alive in 25 years' time, in 2007,
and if I'm still broadcasting, I'll still find plenty to say.
Moore only ever missed one edition, when in hospital with food poisoning,
and even as the effects of age
became increasingly apparent in appearance and speech,
maintained his passion for educating viewers
about the mysteries of the universe.
All the indications are that
the Russians are now making such immense progress
that almost anything may happen at any moment.
He introduced successive generations to satellites,
moon shots and eclipses.
You know, if I'd come on the air in 1957,
when we did the first of these Sky At Night programmes,
and said that within five years I'd be showing you pictures
of the first man to go round the Earth in orbit in a spaceship,
well, I think you'd have regarded me as mad.
However, the first astronomer to become a TV star also had
another screen career, sending up his eccentric personality
in light entertainment and quiz programmes.
LAUGHTER FROM AUDIENCE
And if I may trouble you, Mr Moore...
Mainly, though, he remained starstruck in another way.
He always maintained that his greatest achievement
was inspiring the astronomers of the future.
This is a powerful light.
And this one is simply a small pocket torch.
But until you knew that one was further away than the other,
there was no way in which you could tell.
This previously unseen interview was recorded in 2007
at his home in Sussex, where he'd lived for much of his life...
..and where, in deference to his age and health,
the Sky At Night was filmed during his final years.
78 years since you were given a book called
The Story Of The Solar System,
do you still look at the sky with excitement?
I most certainly do, because the trouble is that, erm,
I am no longer very mobile physically,
and therefore I can't do what I did, but, erm,
until this happened, yes, I was in my observatory on every clear night.
I very much miss it now.
So you're not able now
to look at the sky in the way you would like?
Not really, because, erm, my observatory,
which is, erm, outside in the grounds -
it's got a very nice 15" telescope in it, but the trouble is,
I am not mobile now and I can't get into the dome.
So other people use it, but sadly I can't.
It's an old wartime injury that caught up - these things happen.
You're regarded by a lot of people as an eccentric -
the monocle is not a very usual form of eye wear,
the xylophone is not a particularly conventional instrument -
do you accept that you're an eccentric?
Er, apart from having two heads, I'm not!
No, the monocle - er, I can see quite well without it,
but, erm, if I put my monocle in, my two eyes are equal -
otherwise they are not. I just put it in to sharpen things up.
The xylophone? Well, when I was a boy,
erm, about nine or ten, somebody came to see us
with a little xylophone. I don't mean a toy,
a little band thing. And I tried it, and it was rather fun, so I went on.
But I've never had a music lesson in my life.
But you are...you're an unusual, vivid figure in the way you talk,
in the way you perform, do you... Is any of that cultivated?
No, not a bit. Not in the slightest.
I have never consciously cultivated anything at all! It's just me!
When you watch yourself on television, er,
one always sees one's own faults, very clearly. I mean, mine, I know,
I talk far too fast. I have to get things in -
I realise this perfectly well,
But it's no good my trying to slow down - this is just me.
Did you always speak fast as a boy?
I don't know, really, it's a long time ago,
I don't think I did, particularly.
Erm, I hope I don't speak too fast now.
-No, no, you certainly...you slow it down for broadcasting...
..but if I'd met you in childhood, you would have been recognisably
the Patrick Moore we know...?
I don't know, because between the age of six and 15,
I was very much of a crock, and I couldn't get around at all, really.
I missed my...my official schooling for that reason.
It's a nuisance. But oh, no, I was same kind of person,
but, I wasn't very active then.
I couldn't play any games, for example.
But this is the extraordinary thing, that I am talking to you,
you're at the age of 84...
-You were not expected to have a long life at all, were you,
-because of your childhood illness?
-Well, I got a slightly crocked heart,
these things happen - I have coped with that one all right!
There are certain things I can't do,
certain things I can - but I manage anyway.
But in childhood you were effectively treated as an invalid
for...for 10 years.
Well, more or less. Wasn't quite ten years - six to 14.5.
-By the time I was 15, I could get around again,
and of course, erm, before... not long after that,
I got into the RAF. So I was managing it then.
You were an only child,
many people have theories about only children,
that it encourages their imagination -
-is that the case with you?
-I know why I'm an only child.
My father and mother would have liked another, but they knew quite well,
they couldn't look after and educate more than one,
so they didn't have another one. I would have liked a brother or sister,
but, erm, it didn't happen.
Did you feel lonely in childhood?
I don't think I felt lonely. I had plenty to do.
I knew plenty of people... just that I couldn't get around
to do things other boys did.
And therefore, since I'd never done it, I didn't miss it.
Given that astronomy has been such a part of your life,
that moment, if they ever made the life story of Patrick Moore,
the movie, the moment when you're given that book at the age of six -
The Story Of The Solar System - will be deeply significant.
Did it feel significant to you at the time?
I wasn't actually given it. I was in the dining room at my old home,
and it was raining, and I was a bit bored,
and I reached down and looked in the bookcase.
And my mother was always "a bit" interested in astronomy.
Not wildly so, but enough to have one of those little books about it.
And I picked up one of those, in the bookshelf behind me now -
The Story Of The Solar System.
It wasn't a boys' book, it was an adult book -
my reading was all right, and I coped.
I wouldn't be hooked out of that chair till I'd finished the book.
-"This is fun!"
-And it was a 19th-century book,
so presumably the view of the solar system was,
by what we know now, fairly primitive.
Not really. Obviously we know far more now that we did then,
but the essentials were there - they haven't altered a lot.
So... But it was a very good book, in 1898.
I read it, as I say, when I was... when I was six, seven...
over 30 years later.
But it was still good, and still is.
And you had a lucky chance - there have been many in your life -
which was to meet a significant local astronomer.
I had two great slices of luck -
one, I was fascinated by astronomy.
I lived in Worsted Lane, East Grinstead.
Opposite us was a big estate,
owned by a guy named Hanbury, of Allen & Hanburys.
Er, he grew orchids, I may say.
And in his garden he had a small, private observatory,
Brockhurst observatory, run by an astronomer named WS Franks,
who was a well-known astronomer - about 5ft 8in,
had a long, white beard, looked exactly like a gnome -
he was a delightful chap and a brilliant astronomer,
and I got to know him. He very kindly took me over there
and showed me bits and pieces and how to observe.
And I did that. And then, when I was 14,
Franks sadly was killed in a motor smash.
And Hanbury said to me, "Look, you know your stuff.
"I want somebody to run my observatory,
"show people off when they want to, bits of research here and there.
"Will you do it?" I said, "I would be honoured."
So I found myself director of an observatory at the age of 14!
And that went on until just before the war, when Hanbury died
and the observatory was sold. That was one slice of luck.
Other slice of luck was, erm, the British Astronomical Association -
a friend of our family, Major AE Levine, was a member.
He'd been talking to me, and said,
"Well, you're very young for it, but I'll put you up for membership."
I remember going to Sion College then,
shaking hands with the president, the Astronomer Royal,
and being welcomed as a member. I was 11.
Exactly 50 years later, to the day, I was president!
You were the president of it! It seems extraordinary
for a boy of that age to be...becoming a member,
-to be running the observatory.
-It was sheer luck.
It was only a small, private observatory.
My duty there was to, erm, keep various records,
because I could use the telescope whenever I wanted to - it was a 6" -
and, erm, demonstrate whenever I... it was to be done, so I did that.
Nothing to it.
But did it feel an unusual thing to be doing to you?
Yes, it did, frankly. I mean, it was unusual.
But I could cope with it... It wasn't very onerous!
Didn't need any specialised knowledge,
but I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Your autobiography is unusual in that your first 30 years
are dealt with in two-and-a-half pages at the beginning of the book,
as if you regard your childhood as unimportant.
Er, well, it wasn't to me. It would be unimportant to anybody else!
And nothing really to write about!
But psychologists, psychiatrists, novelists, think
that childhood is the crucial period. It's where we become...
-what we will be...
-Have you ever met a psychiatrist
who wasn't a raving nutcase, because I haven't?!
So you genuinely... you regard your childhood as...
-It wouldn't interest anybody else,
so I didn't write about it. In my long life, I have met
so many interesting people, and I thought that might be
worth putting on record - which is really why I wrote the book.
Your father you mentioned very little in your memoir -
you say at one point, "He and I were quite different people."
Yeah, I was the wrong son for him. He was, erm,
he went to the First World War and got an MC,
and he was a... very much of the army type.
A brilliant athlete, a county hockey player,
first-class amateur boxer, and, er, he and I were just different.
He would have liked a strong, macho, athletic son, which I wasn't.
It wasn't my fault! We got on all right, but we were just different.
Your mother... You have a performing side clearly,
and that may have come from her, because she had been a singer...
Yes, before the First World War, she was trained as a soprano
by Sabatini and Caliche in Italy.
And before she'd finished her training,
she was offered the lead in an Italian grand opera.
But First World War come along,
married my father, who was then an army officer,
and never did it - but she was good enough.
I must say, when I was a boy, I am told I had a very nice voice.
When my voice broke, it didn't break, it shattered.
It's perfect enough for playing the demon king in the local pantomime,
but it's useless for anything else!
You say in the book you were...
your words are "exceptionally close" to your mother...
I was, yes. And we stayed together... There's no secret about this,
erm, I am not a bit sensitive about it - my girl was killed in the war.
There was nobody else for me. Therefore, I didn't marry,
and I knew from the age of 19 I wasn't going to marry.
Well, my mother and I were very close indeed, so, why split up?
So, we didn't! Simple as that!
-You lived in the same house until her death.
here, in 1981, aged 94,
and she was mentally fine, right up to the end,
and physically fine until she was 92.
We were very close indeed.
But that decision you made at 19, that you would be
alone for the rest of your life, that would surprise a lot of people.
Many people, even if they were bereaved in those circumstances,
they met other people - you never have.
-It went too deep, I'm afraid.
A lot of people would have felt lonely
living their life on their own -
-you've called yourself a reluctant bachelor...
I would have liked a wife and family, of course, but that wasn't on.
But certainly, I've had plenty of friends, all through my life,
since, er, the end of the war,
so I've never been lonely from that point of view.
As I say, would have liked a family, I'd have loved it,
and it never struck me that I wouldn't have one.
But these things happen in... Blame the late Herr Hitler!
And I don't want to do too much or probe too deeply into this,
but Lorna, she made such an impact on you, even at that age...
We were absolutely everything to each other, and that was that.
These things happen.
You say you were the wrong...in some ways the wrong son for your father,
-but he was a military figure...
-Yes, he was.
..and you yourself, you were determined to fight in the war.
I didn't want to stay at home -
there were certain things that I couldn't do.
If I had gone into the army or navy, I would have lasted 10 minutes,
because I hadn't got the right kind of heart for it
and I wouldn't have lasted.
So the one thing I thought I might be able to do was to fly,
so I did. And so my father served in the First World War,
with great distinction, I served in the Second
with a total lack for distinction, but at least I served!
I am surprised, given your health history, because a number of people
were invalided out, but you were able to pass the medical?
Erm, I wasn't entirely honest, shall we say?
I was a rather economical with the truth.
But these things happen. After all,
at the age of 77, I was still playing cricket, and doing rather well!
And you say in the book - again, it's tantalising, you say,
"I had a rather interesting war, but we'll leave it at that."
Yes, we'll leave it at that.
You haven't...? You would never go beyond that?
It's a long time ago. Old men forget.
-But you haven't forgotten...
-Old men forget.
You just don't want to tell people but you haven't forgotten.
I forget now, I really do. My memory is very bad in some ways.
Have you written it down anywhere? Would it ever be published one day?
Well, I began my book really at the end of the war,
because that's when things started happening to me,
and I got involved in all kinds of things - the astronomical side
and the writing side. Again, I had an immense slice of luck.
A few years after the war, er,
Eyre and Spottiswoode, the London publishers,
were looking for somebody to write a book about the moon.
And I'd given a lecture in London called A Guide To The Moon.
They'd heard about this and contacted their American side, Norton's,
and I was invited to write a book about the moon.
I'd never written a book before - so would I have a go?
And I was lucky, it caught on, and I was invited to write another one -
that caught on, and there we were.
So, that finished my university career, unfortunately,
because before the war, I had my Cambridge place ready,
but didn't take it up, and after the war, my place was still there.
But it would have meant taking a government grant,
which I wasn't prepared to do,
so I did a bit of writing to pay my way through,
and then writing took over and I never had time!
So, I missed it in the end!
When you say you were not prepared to take a government grant, why not?
I prefer to do things on my own.
I prefer to stand on my own feet, I did even then.
And does that come from your childhood,
do you think, from your parents?
Just me, I think. See, I was lucky, because these...these books
caught on, and I have never been stuck since from that point of view.
I've got a tremendous job now revising my biggest book -
it'll take me the best part of a year.
And the writing of your books is unusual, in that
the typewriter on which you produce them,
it will be 100 years old next year.
1908 Woodstock, and, erm, on that machine, with my two middle fingers,
I could type accurately, at 90 words a minute.
Now, of course I can't, because my hands aren't right,
and therefore I'm slow, and I make mistakes, when I never did before.
And everything takes me 10 times as long,
which is an infernal nuisance, but there it is!
And you wrote, erm, you wrote a chapter for NASA, who I think
probably expect these things to be sent to their mobile phones...
NASA were preparing a book about the moon, some time of the year,
and they asked me to write a chapter about the lunar transient phenomena.
And I wrote this, and I sent it in, and I've got their letter. It says,
"Dear Patrick, thank you for your chapter.
"This is exactly right - the right style, the right length,
"the right research, we're delighted with it.
"It goes straight to press. Thank you very much." And...
"Congratulations - you are the first author to send in his chapter."
In pencil at the bottom, "What the bloody hell did you type it on?!"
But there is an even older typewriter, which I think also,
at the age of six, you were given a much older typewriter...
My grandfather's 1892 Remington,
abandoned by him as too old-fashioned for his office.
And that was found in our loft and given to me to play with.
I taught myself to type. I've still got it. It's a lovely old machine.
It's, erm, you can't do any speed on it, because the...
it hits on the roller underneath, but it's good.
One of the recurrent things in your life I think, in your early life,
is that you are self-taught - self-taught as a typist,
which a lot of people do -
but also as an astronomer, you are self-taught.
That's perfectly true. I did it from...from books and meetings.
I had some tremendous pieces of luck.
I was able to join the British Astronomical Association -
I gained so much from that.
And the first thing that attracted you in astronomy was the mapping of the moon.
Well, I think, in astronomy, amateur or professional,
you are bound to specialise in something,
and in my case, it happened to be the moon.
Therefore that's been my main role in astronomy,
my only real research was in the... joining in the lunar mapping.
I was one of the moon map team.
Of course, all the work I did on that is now completely obsolete
because now you go to satellites and spacecraft,
but they didn't exist in those days.
We HAD to do it then, but now, of course, it belongs to the past.
Is it a regret to you at all that you didn't study astronomy formally?
No, for two reasons.
First of all, I am so insulated I could do what I wanted to,
and the moon and planets were my particular joy.
Secondly, I know my limitations.
If you're going to be a professional astronomer,
you've got to be a good mathematician, and I am not.
I have not got a naturally mathematical mind,
and therefore, I would never be a theorist.
So it's just as well that I didn't.
I must say, when I meant to take my degree,
I was going to take my degree in geology...
first of all, because lunar and planetary geology interests me most,
and secondly, in those days -
not now, but in those days -
the maths you need for geology weren't so advanced
as those you needed for astronomy.
I could just about have coped with that, but I never got started.
Your broadcasting career, which has been extraordinarily successful -
you're the longest-running presenter of a single show now,
but it got off to what would have been a frightening start to most people,
because your first broadcast was in French.
Yes, I was doing a broadcast about Venice Observatory,
with the then Astronomer Royal, Sir Harold Spencer Jones.
It was on the BBC Foreign Service, and it was a live broadcast,
and they turned the cameras on and said, "It's in French - do you mind?"
By the grace of God, I didn't, but had it been in anything else, I would have done.
-So you were able to discuss that subject in French?
-My French is all right.
I've got an appalling accent because during the war, I flew with the Belgians.
I've got a lovely Anglo-Flemish accent,
and my grammar is not impeccable, but I'm all right.
I have translated books from French.
The Sky At Night, which has been a very large part of your life
and your fame, that happened because you'd made a previous programme
which had interested the BBC.
Paul Johnstone, the BBC producer,
who was actually an archaeologist
looking around for someone to do a regular programme on astronomy
in the way that hadn't been done quite before.
And he'd heard me do one broadcast. Could I be the man?
So he rang me up! Would I go and see him? So I did.
And we talked and we got on, and it was agreed we'd do a test programme.
We didn't do a test in the end.
We went straight on the air and the BBC said then
they'd repeat this programme, put it on the air
once every four weeks, for three months, and see how it went.
And that was 50 years ago. Again, a huge slice of luck for me.
I mean, the fact it's lasted for so long is not due to me at all.
It's purely the subject, and also,
when it had been on the air only four months, the space age started.
Up went Sputnik 1, and astronomy suddenly became headline news.
Did you think, at the beginning, as to who might be watching?
What the audience might be?
Yes, I thought everybody...
We'll try and give the latest news on astronomy
and keep people up to date, without going too deeply into it.
And again, we were lucky,
because at that stage there was a bright comet, Arend-Roland,
that had come down, and that would be the main subject of our first programme.
And people went and looked at it. And it just caught on.
And you suggest that it was a very good time to be starting,
because - we will talk about the space race in a moment -
but even before that, it was also a time
when people suddenly got excited about flying saucers,
-the idea that there was something out there.
-Oh, we always get that!
The flying saucer craze still goes on, even today.
Alien abductions are great fun.
I record myself as being the most complete sceptic
about the idea that flying saucers
are spaceships coming from other worlds.
I don't believe a word of it, and I am quite sure that
all the sightings can be explained much more easily than that.
I did a programme called One Pair Of Eyes once.
I had, erm, flying saucers,
flat Earthers, hollow grovers,
even a man who believed the sun to be cold.
-You don't think the sun's hot?
-No, the sun isn't hot.
It's not a hot body. It causes heat
but it's not hot itself.
The sun itself is cold?
Well, cold or temperate, like the Earth.
What puzzles me a bit is that, at the moment, I'm sitting here,
say, in this lovely old vicarage, and I can see the sun
and I can feel what I think is heat on my forehead. It's coming from the sun.
Well, now suppose you had an electric generating station,
it doesn't have to be on fire,
but you can have an electric radiator
and the generating station, which is completely cold,
may be causing heat on your neck,
so it doesn't mean that the generating station itself has got to be on fire.
But I think you have a form letter that you send out to correspondents
saying you won't answer letters on UFOs,
the theory that man didn't land on the moon, and all the rest of it.
You're quite resistant to the conspiracy theorists.
Oh, it's sheer rubbish, obviously.
But, um, no, I had sent out that letter
when I was absolutely inundated with mail at one stage.
Normally I reply to everybody.
And I do have so many letters from the youngsters,
and I always reply to those.
I say, if I had done anything at all in this world,
it gives me great pleasure to go round and find well-known amateur astronomers
and well-known professionals
who began either by watching The Sky At Night
or reading one of my books,
and if I've done anything worth doing, it's that.
I've done my best. Others could have done it better.
there must be many worlds like the Earth in the universe?
Surely some of them may be inhabited?
Well, by inhabited I suppose you mean inhabited by living forms,
things that we would call life, and the answer to that is,
I think the probability is exceedingly high
that there's abundant life scattered throughout the universe.
Very early on, one of the questions there is, you're asking people,
is there any possibility of life elsewhere in the universe?
That has been a constant question.
Look at it this way. Our sun is an ordinary star.
One of a hundred thousand million stars in our galaxy.
We know of a thousand million galaxies, that's only part of them.
And many of these stars have planets, we know that.
Therefore, the total number of worlds right here must be absolutely staggering,
and I refuse to believe ours is the only form of intelligent life.
But I can't prove it.
And I think the one thing we don't know,
if you have a world where life could appear, will it?
Well, I think we may answer that soon.
After all, there were fears about life on Mars.
Well, there are no Martians.
On the other hand, there may well be a certain amount of low-type life on Mars,
and before long, we should find out.
And if there's any trace of life on Mars,
that would show that life will appear where it can.
And that'll be a very strong pointer.
So I'm sure there are plenty of intelligent races up there,
but they are light years away,
and they certainly can't get to us, by any means we know.
And that's a crucial point, because the counter-argument often put is that
if there were life, there would have been some kind of contact by now.
The distances are so vast.
You can't send a rocket to the nearest star, it would take far too long,
and things like suspended animation don't really work.
And we start talking about time warps, space warps,
teleportation, thought travel.
That is sheer science fiction.
But television would have been science fiction only a few centuries ago,
and we may be as near to - they'd be exotic forms -
as we were to television.
If we're ever going to contact those other civilisations
which must exist, it's got to be done, I think,
by some method about which we know absolutely nothing at the present moment.
And I suspect we're just about as far away from that kind of thing
as King Canute was from television.
Going back to that very first programme, 26th April 1957...
-..virtually all television was live in those days.
-It was, yes.
You were a relatively inexperienced presenter,
so 10.30pm, the light goes on -
were you terrified?
I wasn't terrified. I've got about as many nerves as the average rhinoceros
when it comes to that kind of thing,
but I do remember seeing on the screen -
"a regular monthly programme, presented by Patrick Moore".
And I remember thinking then,
my entire career depends on what I do during those 20 minutes.
And of course it did.
Television was quite scary in those days,
because huge numbers of things could go wrong. That would happen?
Oh, yes, that did. I once swallowed a large fly on television.
That was great fun.
And case of the Russian that came in to take part and didn't speak any English.
All kinds of things happened.
We had the famous 50th Sky At Night,
and we were going to show Jupiter and Saturn through a telescope.
We had a big telescope down at Brighton,
where George Hole was, and five minutes before the programme
and five minutes after it ended, the sky was clear.
In the programme - total cloud!
We had to stall for a quarter of an hour.
What we planned to do was to start off by showing you some stars
and then go on to the moon, then Jupiter,
and finally the most spectacular thing of all, Saturn,
the planet with the rings,
which never has been shown before on direct television.
George, what do you think of the prospects now at the moment?
I think we're nearly totally obscured, Patrick.
I saw Jupiter a few moments ago. I can see it now...
but...it's gone again.
-It's one of these infuriating things about which we can do absolutely nothing.
-Nothing at all.
-George, can you see anything at all?
-Can you see Vega?
-I don't know whether I can get on it.
-The star Vega, which is the thing we wanted to show you,
it's a bright-blue star right above us, as I said earlier on,
and with any luck now we will be able to get the telescope on it.
I can see it quite clearly and I think we're just about going to have time to show it to you.
But of course there's still a lot of drifting cloud up there
and we can't tell whether it'll be obscured at the critical moment.
Of course you won't see Vega looking large,
-because no telescope yet built will show a star...
-It's gone, Patrick.
-Has it gone? Oh, no.
Just as I got it on the cross wires, it blacked right out.
How absolutely typical. There's nothing we can do about it.
I can't move a 24-inch telescope quicker than that.
No, I'm afraid you can't.
Well, is it worth keeping it there, do you think?
-There's nowhere else to point it, is there?
-No, I'm afraid not.
The space race was very good for you and The Sky At Night.
As you say, it created great excitement in what was going on.
Well, the space age started.
I mean, as recently as 1950, there were still people who said
we'd never get to the moon and certainly never get further.
Well, that all vanished with the launch of Sputnik 1.
And it was the flight of Yuri Gagarin
quite soon after that, so men could go into space,
and we were right IN the space age,
so of course that was a boost to the programme, obviously.
Do you regret... Because I find that I have children
who are scarcely even aware that man went to the moon...
-..because it all stopped. Do you regret that?
Erm, I'm not sure I regret it. They ought to know.
But, after all, it all depends on teaching, doesn't it?
And that's not terribly good these days.
The space race - it seems to have slowed down, to have effectively stopped.
There is no longer a space race.
There certainly was, but not for a long time now.
The space programme SEEMS to have slowed down, but only in one sense.
Manned space research hasn't progressed as quickly
as people expected, for a number of reasons.
The Americans put all their cosmic eggs into one basket,
the Space Shuttle, that took longer to develop than they thought,
and cost more, and a couple of very nasty accidents,
and the Russians ran out of money,
so the manned space research has slowed down,
although we now have the International Space Station,
but unmanned space research, that's a very different story.
Probes now to all the planets, space observatories -
we know ten times more than we did.
Huge space observatories, got everything there,
but unmanned has not. So the slowing down is only apparent...
and if we do get... We will go back to the moon,
then I think we will have a lunar base, and that'll start up again.
'Five, four, three,
'two, one, zero.
'All engine running.
'Lift-off! We have a lift-off. 32 minutes past the hour.'
Roughly, the middle of the Apollo programme,
Apollo 8 to Apollo 11, that, as a reporter,
and being involved in it,
that must have been one of the great spells of your life.
I was wearing two hats, because I was on the NASA committee,
therefore I was involved in that side,
and of course I was doing the BBC reporting from here,
so I was dodging to and fro between here and United States.
It was a fascinating period.
And of course, Apollo 11 was the climax, when Neil Armstrong
and Buzz Aldrin stepped out onto the Sea of Tranquility,
and as we heard them going down, I was frankly nervous.
Remember, it hadn't been done before.
Had they made a faulty landing, in any way,
they couldn't have got back,
and that would have been too ghastly for words,
so when I heard Neil's voice coming through,
I felt a great sense of relief.
'Houston, the Eagle has landed.
'I'm going to step off the LEM now.
'That's one small step for a man...
'One giant leap for mankind.'
And again, when they blasted back into orbit from the moon,
they had one ascent engine that had to work properly first time,
and mercifully it did.
Then of course, Apollo 13, that was a near disaster,
but it was luck, skill... We got away with it.
But I think the Apollo programme was finally called off
and enthusiastic though I am, I am sure it was rightly so,
because Apollo had done what it could - land the men on the moon,
research there and left instruments -
but doing it in other parts of the moon
would have added quite a bit, but nothing fundamental,
and sooner or later, something would have gone wrong.
I don't believe now there will be any more flights to moon
until there is rescue provision.
That should come before too many years.
I was interested in that because reading accounts of those Apollo...the first moon landings,
there was - which perhaps people don't realise now - there was genuine fear.
It was not at all clear that they could get the astronauts back.
The main one was Apollo 11.
Just as Yuri Gagarin's first orbit in space - that was the vital one.
No-one knew how the human frame would react.
We have rich people at the moment buying tickets to go into space.
Do you regret that that is not something you will ever experience?
I'd love to go, but it would be a very massive rocket to launch me!
THEY BOTH LAUGH
Have you...would you, though, like to have done it?
Of course I would, but I never had a chance.
I was the wrong age, wrong nationality
and no qualifications at all.
I never had a chance, but I am moderately proud of the fact
that I did have a very small input, in my moon mapping.
Apollo 8, there was a broadcasting problem,
which is that, as the BBC have done in other things
on other occasions, they cut away at the wrong moment.
I was down in Wood Green, and on the air live.
Apollo 8 had gone round the moon.
I said something to this effect.
"The men of Apollo 8 are now on the far side of the moon.
"They're coming round
"and in less than a minute, they'll come round the edge,
"and we'll be able to hear them.
"We hope they come round on time, because after all,
"they've carried out a very risky manoeuvre,
"so I'll say no more now.
"In a few seconds, we'll hear the voices of the first men round the moon,
"and this is one of the great moments in human history."
And the BBC changed over to Jackanory.
THEY BOTH LAUGH
Reading the books of some of the astronauts,
a lot of them seem to have been quite profoundly affected
by the experience of going into space.
I remember old Gene Cernan telling me that when he was on the moon,
the thing that affected him most was looking up and seeing his home
a quarter of a million miles away. Bound to affect you, obviously.
I think... I wonder if the first man on Mars has been born.
It's possible, you know.
That would be, I mean,
even more difficult to mount a mission than the Apollo ones.
-Oh, far more.
-Is it plausible, do you think?
I think there are two reasons that may hold things up.
The first is radiation.
Once you're beyond the atmospheric screen,
you're exposed to all kinds of unpleasant radiation,
so on the moon, you get away with it for a brief period.
On Mars - weeks to get there, and you're exposed to the whole thing.
On Mars itself - incomplete protection,
and the journey home, so radiation is a problem,
and no-one quite knows yet how bad it is or how to counteract it.
That's one problem. The second, of course is, do we want to?
Because after all, one more war, a major war,
and we are back in the Stone Age, and that could happen, I'm afraid.
A very long career with The Sky At Night.
We've had various presenters... we've had Nick Ross of Crimewatch
recently leaving the programme after 23 years,
apparently told that they had to think about the age profile of the programme.
Have you ever suffered from that at the BBC?
Not a bit. After all, I have been there for a long time.
Everyone knows that I'm now 84. If they want to replace me, I wouldn't grumble.
I've been there for a long time. Of course we do have now Chris Lintott.
I remember my first meeting with Chris.
I gave a lecture at the Torquay Boys' School,
and an 11-year-old boy came and started talking to me,
and I thought, "This is rather an unusual 11-year-old. I think he had better be cultivated."
That was Chris. Well, I invited him on the programme.
He is now co-presenter, and he had all the advantages that I haven't.
First of all, he's got a first-class mathematical brain.
He's got all his degrees now. And he's a good presenter, too.
And he enjoys doing it,
so he will certainly be a better presenter than I am.
Would you want the programme to continue after you?
Oh, yes, most certainly. The reason being, no thanks to me,
but I believe the programme has done good.
It's brought people into astronomy,
and certainly has encouraged those to take it up.
So, yes, I will want it to continue, and I'm quite sure that it will.
-And you would want Chris to take over from you?
-He'd be eminently suitable.
THEY BOTH LAUGH
Apart from your Sky At Night career,
there has been another side to your television life,
which has been comedy, light entertainment.
Sending yourself up, in effect.
I don't mind laughing at myself. Why should I?
No, it's great fun. I've done... All kinds of people.
What are you studying at the moment?
What do your investigations lead you to study now?
-Are you talking to me?
-Oh... Northern stars.
Ah, northern stars. Which one in particular?
Proxima Centauri. Now, that is a fascinating star.
Isn't it amazing to reflect that when you look at Proxima,
you're seeing it as it was four years ago?
-The light from Proxima takes over four years to reach us.
What is he talking about?!
-What is he talking about?
-What do you mean?
-Throw him off. Get him off.
-He's quite brainy.
-The man's a fool.
-But it takes the light of Proxima Centauri four years to reach the Earth. That's...
-It's not rubbish.
-It's certainly not rubbish.
-Far from it.
-And it may interest you to know this, Mr Morecambe...
The star Altair, the light from that takes 16 years to reach us.
-From Vega, 27 years.
-From Rigel, 800 years.
-I'll smash your face in.
-And Deneb, or Alpha Cygni, if you prefer...
-From the Alpha Cygni...
Get off! He's making it all up as he goes along.
Did you ever worry that it would detract from the seriousness?
No, not a bit. The reason being, um, when I do that kind of thing,
I am having fun.
When I'm an astronomer, I'm a serious astronomer.
And I don't mix the two.
If I know I don't mix the two, therefore there's no danger there.
And being impersonated - some people get sensitive about this,
but you've rather enjoyed being impersonated by people.
I complained bitterly once that Mike Yarwood...
I've got a scar over my eye there, and I said to him, "You've got my scar wrong."
Now, a lot of people have been writing in to The Sky At Night
asking questions about astronomy,
and of course it is a fascinating subject!
People want to know why we don't put The Sky At Night on earlier in summer so the children can watch.
Well, we would put it on earlier...
but we have to wait till it goes damn well dark before we do the damn thing at all!
This was a scar I got during the war
in an operation over the Skagerrak
caught in a sea of flak, in the jaws of death.
Actually, I came off my motorbike in 1952.
My wheel caught in a rut!
So, as well as not, um... Apart from not talking about your war record,
-you make up versions of it.
-On that occasion, yes!
You mentioned having written a book
because of some of the people you'd met.
I mean, some of those are very striking. Einstein, for example.
I met him once, when I was a boy, during my flying training.
A little concert I was invited to.
Einstein was there, and I was able to talk to him.
He was, as you know, an expert violinist,
and he happened to have his violin,
he'd been playing somewhere, and somebody said,
"Oh, your violin." He said, "I play The Swan. There's no accompanist."
There was a piano there. Saint-Saens' Swan - I knew the accompaniment.
So I've accompanied Einstein.
Oh, for a tape! But there weren't any tapes then!
I also met the first airman, Orville Wright.
-That was interesting.
-Tell me about that.
I met at the same conference. He didn't die till 1948.
He did very little flying after 1920.
He was so sad that his aeroplane had been used in warfare,
and he really rather faded into the background.
He was a very pleasant, unassuming kind of man.
What about Einstein? Was there any sense of the charisma, the...?
He was exactly what you'd expect.
Charming, courteous, out of this world -
exactly as you would imagine Einstein to be.
You were a very young man at the...
-You were known as "the kid" in your RAF years.
-Yes, I know.
Were you in awe of these people?
I don't think I was. I can't really say that I was.
I was fascinated and honoured to meet them.
Arthur C Clarke, who was a friend for a long time, um...
-Still is. ..but he is someone that you knew from early on.
We were both prewar members of the British Interplanetary Society.
That's where Arthur and I met, and we've been close friends ever since.
He lives of course now in Sri Lanka.
We talk on the phone, and in aid of the Sri Lanka disaster fund,
we put together a little book about asteroids,
and we made £13,000 or £14,000 for the fund.
You are listed in some places as music consultant
on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Is that true?
I think it is. Only one bit. I was having dinner with Arthur,
and they were wondering what music to use for the space sequence,
and I said, "Use the Blue Danube," and they did.
Whether this originally came from me, I don't know.
That was my only connection there, but certainly I did say, "Use the Blue Danube," and they did.
-It would have been a big coincidence if it isn't from you saying that...
-You're probably right.
-But something to be proud of, I would, think.
-Yeah, I agree. It's an amazing film.
Another connection you have with Arthur C Clarke -
you've done less of it than him -
but science fiction is an area you have written in.
I have written... I did a whole series of boys' books,
boys' novels, on science fiction,
and they're just going to be republished again,
because people have been trying to get them and can't,
and it's been decided to republish, put them on the web and see if people are interested.
Which I think they are.
Your mother wrote a book towards the end of her life, didn't she?
She wrote Mrs Moore In Space, with her lovely cartoons.
I mean, her drawings were marvellous.
We put those together, and she said Mrs Moore In Space was her one and only book.
She was then 88.
I may say she was a marvellous artist.
If I had one spark of artistic ability,
I'd try and develop it, but I am so hopeless that there's no point.
Music consultant, as we say, to 2001, we think,
but you also have been a composer yourself.
I have written quite a lot of music, yes.
The last thing I wrote, I think...
The band of the Royal Paratroop Brigade wanted a new march,
so I wrote the march Out Of The Sky for them.
About the last thing I wrote before this hit me,
and I've written three operas -
Theseus, Perseus and the last one, Galileo.
So, Galileo - put on at Cambridge for a fortnight
and then it went there another fortnight
and then yet a third performance.
And then a week in Chichester and then one down here.
The story of Galileo, not quite according to the history books, I'm afraid!
As you told me, your mother was a singer,
so she had musical interests, but she encouraged you to play instruments.
Yes, I can't remember the time I wasn't trying to play the piano.
And I did, ever since I was a very small boy,
and I remember also, when I was eight, sitting at that piano,
and thinking, "Now, this is silly. I can't read and write music,"
so I went and bought a book and taught myself.
But I was never a good sight reader.
And again, this comes out at virtually everything you've done - you have taught yourself.
In that particular respect, yes, but as I say,
I know nothing about the theory of music at all.
I've written waltzes, marches, and they've been played around quite a lot.
I have got one thing that's no credit to me at all.
Don't get me wrong. It's no credit to me, right?
I've got perfect pitch and perfect time. And that of course does help.
Do you ever wish that the writing, that the novels, for example,
the music, that that had been a bigger part of your life?
I wouldn't have altered the astronomy at all.
I wish I'd had had more time for music and writing,
but you can't fit everything in.
I used to wake up and think, "Now, what have I got time to do today?"
HE PLAYS SLOW MELODY
Although Moore's TV appearances have generated great affection,
some of his personal opinions have led people to wonder what planet he's on.
He supports the United Kingdom Independence Party,
which campaigns against ties with Europe,
and in favour of tighter immigration controls.
Moore's autobiography contained provocative complaints about gender and racial equality,
and there was further controversy over comments in a recent interview
about the BBC being taken over by women.
Television has changed a great deal in those 50 years.
YOU find television a less happy place now than at the beginning, don't you?
Not really as happy for me, because, after all, I have never been involved.
I'm not a BBC employee.
I am not involved in that kind of thing at all.
I am sure there are politics there in which I don't get involved,
so it doesn't affect me a bit.
The programmes obviously have changed. But they go on.
And you said recently that it's because of women.
-There are too many women in TV.
-What I said was this.
Originally, the BBC was entirely male dominated.
Then the pendulum swung, and what I actually said was,
"It's swung a bit too far."
That's all I said because... The press took umbrage, of course.
But you expect that kind of thing.
But if it's swung too far,
then there are too many women in television, do you think?
There were too many men originally.
When there were too many men, was that a problem?
I say there were too many men, probably...
We want a happy medium, and we'll get that, most certainly.
Now, after all,
television does have an extremely important role to play now.
Far more so now than I think anyone expected.
After all, at the end of the war, television was a...
Well, it was just coming on
and no-one really expected it to take over, which it has.
So it's more important than anyone could have dreamed,
and therefore you've got to have a happy medium.
I remember Paul Johnstone telling me... He produced a programme in 1938, I think,
a political discussion between three politicians.
It overran by one hour and 40 minutes!
-Which you wouldn't be allowed to now.
I hope it was enjoyed by BOTH the people who were seeing it!
Your views, your political views... It's complicated,
-because you are against fox-hunting.
-Very much so.
But, in general, people have classed you as a man of the right.
Some have even said the far right.
They can say what they like.
I think I stand for sensible politics.
As I say, I must admit I do belong to a party, I belong to UKIP,
the United Kingdom Independence Party,
but I am far too old to do anything.
So far as fox-hunting is concerned,
people who enjoy that must come from another planet,
as far as I am concerned.
But there we are. You see, we've all got our own particular views,
and I keep out of that kind of thing these days.
The time I've got left, I've got so much I want to do.
I have just revised my big Atlas Of The Universe
and I've got to revise my big Data Book now.
And of course, I did a book with Brian May and Chris Lintott,
and we're now in the position to see we're bang up to date!
So it's all great fun.
You say in your memoirs, very provocatively to a lot of people,
you say the worst acts of Parliamentary legislation in history
were the Sexual Discrimination Act and the Race Relations Act.
All depends on what you think.
I don't like acts if they are acts that only apply in one direction,
but as I say, I am not in that field now.
I'm too busy with my astronomical work.
Also, music - I'd like to do a bit more of that, if I can.
I never was a good player. I was a composer.
I did play the xylophone at the Royal Command Performance once,
and I enjoyed that, but I wasn't a good player,
but I could write for other people. At least I hope I could.
-But the reason, just going back to that...
-I'm not going back, sorry.
-You won't talk about your politics at all?
-Of no interest to anybody else.
-Well, you put them in your memoirs.
-I know I did - very briefly.
-Very briefly and I...
-And we referred to them very briefly.
And I had one question arising from that page in your memoirs,
which is that you say you don't like legalisation going in one direction.
The reason some people would say that was introduced was to redress a balance -
that there had not been equality for non-white people,
there had not been equality for women -
-and it needed to be addressed.
-Colour doesn't matter. Black, white or khaki,
or vermillion or gamboge, if you like.
The opposition to fox-hunting, though, which confuses some people
who wish to position you on the right, um...
What makes you so opposed to fox-hunting?
I don't like needless cruelty,
and no-one can deny that fox-hunting is needlessly cruel.
After all, can you enjoy chasing an animal as it's dropping,
and then seeing it torn to bits by dogs?
If anyone enjoys that, they must come from another planet,
and it's not me.
Some people, which is why they used the phrase,
that colloquial phase, the heavens, looking at the sky,
makes them think about God and eternity and all the rest of it.
Has it ever had that effect on you?
The sky is a wondrous place.
We wonder how far does it go, and what's up there.
And I am sure there are many races up there
far more intelligent than we are.
Whether they will contact us, I don't know,
but the one thing I do say,
there are some people who say we shouldn't try to contact other races
as they might come and want to conquer us.
I don't think that's valid, the reason being, quite simply,
if there are other races more intelligent than we are,
they will have put war behind them, otherwise they wouldn't survive.
So, if they do contact us,
then they are wiser than we are, and we needn't fear them.
What Stephen Hawking called the G word,
he wrote the word God at the end of his book,
A Brief History Of The Universe -
have you ever been moved to thoughts of God?
I had one quarrel with the local vicar down here,
a very serious quarrel.
He dropped two catches off me in the slips in the same over.
One off my fast one, absolute sitter. He dropped it.
I must say, in all, he made a very good fielder.
In the following match, he made 30 or 40 and I went in at number 11,
and I had to stay there while he got his hundred, and I stayed.
Nought not out at the end, I can't bat to save my life!
That's what Freddie Trueman is supposed to have said to Rev David Shepherd, didn't he?
"Pretend it's Sunday and keep your hands together" when he dropped a catch.
I never played serious cricket for two reasons.
First of all, people were kind enough to say that my unusual spin bowling
would carry really good-class cricket.
You can carry a number 11 bat,
you can't carry a fielder as bad as I am.
I am an appalling fielder. I can't catch, I can't stop.
I can't throw, I'm as slow as a house. In the field, I am a passenger,
and had I ever wanted to play serious cricket,
that would wreck me, but I didn't, in any case.
-I'm going to have a third go at this, I may not get anywhere...
Astronomy has driven some people to quite deep thoughts of God,
other people to very strong atheism.
I just wondered where on that scale you figured...
Take a balance. There is so much up there we don't know about.
Our knowledge is fragmentary.
Until we know more, you can't form a judgment, frankly.
Do you think about death?
Er, it'll happen to me one day!
-Do you...do you fear it?
Do you... You mention this in your autobiography,
and at the beginning of this interview,
the infirmities of old age have been an irritation to you.
It's a darn nuisance, I tell you.
Only a few years ago, I was playing tennis and cricket, and now I can't. Most annoying.
There it is. I had a long run, you've got to accept these things.
Nothing you can do about it.
Your mind, though, is clearly very strong and intact.
Is that luck or have you done anything?
Eyes, ears and what passes for a brain are not affected yet.
It's my body that is.
I say I'll go on as long as I can.
But there are always... We open the newspapers,
there are all these things about, it's important to do crosswords
-to keep your brain intact...
-Crosswords I have never managed.
The one clue I solved was "a flightless bird with three letters
"beginning with E and ending with U", and I solved that one.
But have you done anything to keep yourself mentally alert or active?
Yes, I'm studying all the time.
You've got to keep abreast of everything, and I do.
I thought I couldn't do The Sky At Night unless I kept abreast of astronomical stuff,
and that does keep what passes for a brain...
It keeps it working very nicely.
The Sky At Night, as you've suggested,
-you will go on doing for as long as you possibly can.
-As long as they want me to.
If the BBC want me to go on, and people like to see what I do,
If they don't, if they think I'm too old, or I'm not doing it well,
then I'll stand down.
And, as I say, the first really bad programme I do
that's entirely my fault -
-that'll be my last.
-And do you ever watch them and think,
"I have made a mistake, I have done something wrong"?
I have had many things I could do better. Most certainly so.
A large part of your life has been discovery, finding things out.
What are the things you would still most like to know?
I'd like to know more about the origin of the universe.
Above all, I'd like to know, is there intelligent life up there?
I'm sure there is, but I can't prove it,
and I think there will be a pointer, even in my lifetime, probably,
because if we find any trace of life on Mars,
that'll show life will appear where it can.
Somebody did say to me, if a flying saucer landed in my garden
and a little green man came out, what would I say?
I would say, "Good afternoon. Tea or coffee?
"Please come with me to the nearest TV studio!"
But even in the 50 years you've been broadcasting,
most of what we have found out
has argued against the existence of life, hasn't it?
No, I think quite the reverse.
We know now there are many worlds like the Earth where life can appear.
The only thing we don't know, will life appear where it can?
I think Mars may give us the clue there.
It won't be conclusive, but it will give us a good pointer.
-Patrick Moore, thank you very much.
-Nice to have talked to you.
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