17/05/2014 Click


17/05/2014

Click visits the European Space Agency to find out more about 'pocket' satellites. And Peter Gibbs travels to Malawi to launch a weather balloon.


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Transcript


LineFromTo

Hello, darling. Slight problem.

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I think this week's shoot is going to go on

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a bit longer than I thought.

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I think I've got on the wrong flight. Yeah.

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No.

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I won't be needing dinner tonight, no.

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Get ready for blast-off. This week, Click is heading to space.

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On the way up we'll take in some spectacular views of Earth,

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swing by the moon on a spacecraft you could make at home

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and then head half a billion kilometres into the unknown

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to hook up with a comet that could reveal the secrets of life on Earth.

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Welcome to Click. I'm Spencer Kelly and welcome to ESTEC,

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the European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands.

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This is where the European Space Agency develops its spacecraft.

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That is a full-size replica of the Columbus module, which is

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currently orbiting Earth as part of the International Space Station,

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and this is my happy face.

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Some kids want to drive trains.

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I've always wanted to go into space,

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and here at ESTEC, researchers from 35 countries,

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and with similar dreams,

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work together to explore other worlds

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and progress further out into the void.

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The place is a real mix of replica spacecraft and working prototypes.

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This is the closest I will ever get

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to being on board the International Space Station

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and I have to say, it's awesome enough for me.

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Of course, the major difference

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if you're on board the real thing is, first of all, no way is up

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and secondly, if there's a problem, there's no way down.

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The smallest problems on Earth can be fatal in space.

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That's why absolutely everything that goes up is tested to

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breaking point first.

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In these vacuum chambers, the smallest components

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and new materials are being blasted with the extreme heat,

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cold and solar radiation of an orbit around Mercury.

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Entire spacecraft undergo the same kinds of tests in similar,

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if much larger, environments

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because even on unmanned missions equipment failure can mean

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mission failure and a tonne of money lost in the vacuum.

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Launching a satellite into orbit is a big, expensive deal,

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but not all satellites are anywhere near that size. Look at this.

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This is a CubeSat.

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Each one is a regulation 10 x 10 x 10cm,

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and these are packed into the gaps in a launcher.

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Because they're made of cheaper, off-the-shelf components,

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it means that smaller institutions like universities can build

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their own and then explore space.

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CubeSats have been used for all sorts of projects so far,

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and Richard Taylor has been looking at some of the stunning

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results one of them has produced.

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This modest office in downtown San Francisco is light years

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away from your traditional satellite manufacturing lab.

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But it's from here that the 40-strong team of engineers is

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working on building the biggest

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constellation of satellites the world has ever seen.

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Earlier this year, the first few camera-equipped CubeSats were

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ejected out of the International Space Station and into orbit.

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When we saw the satellites come out of the International Space Station,

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it blew my mind because to see the things we have actually

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built here in this lab in orbit,

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with the Earth behind them, was fantastic.

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These CubeSats are now sending back their first images

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as they pass over Earth five miles a second.

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Nowadays, we put more capability into these little satellites,

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the few kilograms,

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than you can possibly imagine.

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They're much more capable than a satellite was five years ago

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that was ten tonnes.

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The pictures are detailed enough to pick out individual trees

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which will give an unparalleled insight into activity

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on the planet's surface.

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Instead of seeing a hole in the Amazon a few months after

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trees have been taken down there, we can see some loggers

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and provide warning that that's happening.

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Right now, the team is working on augmenting the few of these

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so-called doves currently in low-Earth orbit.

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They aim to have 131 by the end of next year,

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giving an almost blanket snapshot of Earth.

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But this revolution in satellite imaging is not confined to

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simply still pictures.

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This is the first high-definition commercial video of planet Earth.

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It was taken from a satellite launched in December

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by another Silicon Valley start-up, Skybox,

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already rumoured to be in acquisition talks with Google.

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Able to pick out moving cars, it means an even more concentrated

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and deeper understanding of activity on the planet.

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If you show somebody a still image of an area,

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they can gain some understanding of what's happening,

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but if you show someone even just a few-second clip of video about

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an area, we intuitively understand a lot about what's happening.

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Skybox satellites are monitored closely from mission control,

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essential to protect its investment.

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Though costing under 20 million each,

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they're far less than the multi-billion-dollar creations

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which characterise older satellite technology.

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And this is where the satellites are physically assembled.

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This one here, a carbon copy of the satellite currently in orbit around Earth.

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Now, I'm not actually allowed inside this clean room because

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being inside would be a violation of international arms regulations.

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And it highlights the potential power that satellites can wield,

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offering powerful analysis

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not just for humanitarian

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or benign corporate purposes,

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but for potentially more hostile actions too, radically transforming

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access to information for anyone with deep enough pockets to pay.

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Do you worry about the information being used in negative ways?

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What allows me to sleep at night is,

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although any radical change in information will be

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exploited for nefarious purposes, the number of applications

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that are a benefit to humanity far outweigh those sort of misuses.

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Space satellite experts acknowledge this is a watershed moment

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but with it comes a warning.

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We simply don't know where it will lead.

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Richard Taylor. Those CubeSats are a bit different from this thing.

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This is an unmanned Russian spy satellite which spent two weeks

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in 1988 photographing the Earth from cameras

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mounted in the windows at the front, before it re-entered

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the atmosphere and plummeted back down to the ground.

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In those days, they had to get the films out of the camera

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and develop them before they could see the pictures.

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Anyway, more from space in a second after

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we hear what's been happening back down here on terra firma.

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An EU court has ordered Google to amend its search results

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at the request of ordinary people in a key test

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of the so-called Right To Be Forgotten.

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The European Court of Justice said links to irrelevant or outdated

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data should be erased on request.

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It comes after a Spanish man complained that a search

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of his name brought up an old auction notice of his repossessed home.

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Critics, including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, warned that

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removing the links, even though the actual data remains,

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amounts to wide, sweeping censorship.

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Electronics giant Samsung has proposed to compensate factory

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workers in South Korea who developed cancer while working for it.

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Following a long-running dispute,

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Samsung apologised for not acting earlier but didn't admit to a direct

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correlation between working at its chip plant and developing leukaemia.

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Google's headset, Glass, has gone on general sale in the United States

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for a cool 1,500.

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Glass has been in private beta-testing for several years

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and then last month went on sale for just one day.

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Now Google says it will sell the headsets to

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anyone in the United States. It's expected that the glasses will

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get an update and high-profile global launch towards the end of this year.

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This isn't your average rocket launch.

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While this SpaceX rocket may be loaded with 2,500 tonnes of

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precious cargo bound for the International Space Station, there

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are a few kilograms in there that could mean the start of something much bigger.

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The culmination of over three years of work hidden away

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in the spare cargo space is a device that means the personal,

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open-source space age has begun.

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So our idea is mass-exploration of space by private individuals.

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So people helping scientists do research,

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but also doing stuff for their own interests.

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The first thing we want to see is out, actually, of interest.

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It sounds ridiculous to say you could have your own

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spacecraft in space for a few hundred pounds,

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and is that actually possible? Can that be done?

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Michael co-created KickSat,

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a crowd-funded project to send over 100 tiny satellites called

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sprites into space not for millions, but for less than £200 a pop.

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The big idea is to make satellites so tiny that you can send hundreds

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or even thousands up at once. Launching stuff into space

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can cost up to 100,000 a kilogram, but if you split the bill

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a few thousand ways, that suddenly becomes a lot more affordable.

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These Lilliputian computers are packed into CubeSats,

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those 10 x 10 x 10cm cubes that we saw earlier,

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which then hitch a ride to Zero-G in the leftover space on major missions

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by the likes of NASA and SpaceX.

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Once the rocket has completed its main mission, the CubeSats

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are jettisoned and they then deploy the sprites.

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But the real value of these tiny satellites is that, like similar

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small computers such as the Raspberry Pi, each one is customisable.

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Luke is a sixth form student from York.

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He heard about KickSat while studying astronomy at school

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and since then he's been programming their software. Space software.

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I had no idea that I was going to do this,

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and then one week I just decided to send an e-mail,

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not really expecting much to happen from it.

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Then, four months later,

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I'm here waiting for the launch of a rocket which has something

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which I helped create on it.

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If you ask these guys,

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KickSat means the start of the age of personal space exploration.

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But Michael's next project, Pocket Spacecraft, has much bigger ambitions.

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We're really interested in interplanetary exploration.

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We want to go out and visit the solar system.

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So at Pocket Spacecraft, we're working on a mission to the moon

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which hopefully will be launched next year.

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What Pocket Spacecraft's mission to the moon aims to do is to

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launch at least 2,000 of our thin-film spacecraft.

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Michael and his team of collaborators and volunteers around the world

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are working on an even thinner miniature satellite called a Scout,

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made from a material only five microns thick.

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That's 1/200th of a millimetre.

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It's all about using clever design to keep costs and weight down.

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The tiny wire around the edge simultaneously keeps the Scout

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rigid and acts as the aerial for communications,

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and much of the electronics on the Scout are printed using conductive ink.

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The only actual components are the solar cells and the central chip.

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With funding from the European Space Agency, Pocket Spacecraft is

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also working on a mission control app and website, so you'll be able

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to monitor the data from your spacecraft once it's up there.

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Pocket Spacecraft already has over 2,000 backers,

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pledging funds to the 500,000 mission.

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Even though space is so vast, the best way to explore it may be

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with the tiniest of tools.

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What an amazing opportunity to do what these guys did, albeit remotely.

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Even if you can't get to the moon, even if you can't get into space,

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there's still plenty of exploration

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to be done inside the Earth's atmosphere.

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We sent the BBC weather presenter Peter Gibbs to Malawi to get

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a view of the Earth even he hasn't seen before.

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Mvuu National Park.

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The scenery's stunning, but myself and my friends Andrew

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and Jerry are hoping to get some far higher sights.

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The culmination of months of hard work is our chance to launch

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a weather balloon into the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

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When I saw somebody doing this thing of sending up

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cameras into the stratosphere, I thought I had to get involved.

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It's actually part of the atmosphere that's very hard to get

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any imagery of any other way,

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because it's too high for aircraft but it's too low for spacecraft.

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Unless you've got something very specialised, these are the

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only way you're going to get into that region of the atmosphere.

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And I'm not the only one.

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All sorts of people are taking cheap, intelligent electronics

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and putting it together to send fairly sophisticated

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packages to the edge of space and back.

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It's great fun but it also has the potential to provide some very

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useful science.

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Our balloon's carrying a couple of HD action cameras,

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temperature sensors, plus radio and satellite trackers

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so we know exactly where it is.

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All this is wrapped inside a home-made polystyrene box to

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deal with temperatures that'll go down to -80 degrees.

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So a standard 600g balloon.

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Latex rubber. When you fill it with something like hydrogen,

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it expands as it rises. It gets so big it actually bursts.

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With all that last-minute preparations complete, it's almost

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time for lift-off and the nerves are taking over.

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-ALL:

-Three, two, one. Go.

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Success.

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Data on position, speed and altitude are being fed back from

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the balloon directly to our radio receiver but also via satellite,

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as long as we have Wi-Fi or mobile signal.

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I'm desperate to get internet access so I can see whether we

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are getting messages, because we really are in the middle of nowhere.

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This balloon also has a little something special in it.

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We are putting in a Geiger counter.

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The professor from Reading University Meteorological Department

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has asked us to fly this. That's the real science of this whole thing.

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The sun sends a stream of charged particles known as the solar wind

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into our atmosphere and it's thought this may influence how clouds form.

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There's very little data available from the tropics

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so we're helping to fill gaps in the science.

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-Andrew, the tracker's working.

-God, I'm so happy.

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We're at altitude 15,630 metres.

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-16km. So, let's go. Let's go and find it.

-Not long to burst.

-No.

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At 22km altitude, the air is so thin it's only

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a matter of time before the balloon will swell and burst.

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MUFFLED BANG

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While it's in the air, we can track its location

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but once it hits the ground that's not guaranteed.

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The chase is on to retrieve it.

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-BEEPING

-Yay!

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17.4km.

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It's at 1km high.

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BEEPING

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About half a mile that way.

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There it is.

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That is totally amazing.

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It's always a relief when you find the package.

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A great sense of achievement.

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It's taken over a year to put this project together, but it's worked.

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That's one project that's come to an end.

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We want to move to a balloon that goes up and just floats at a set altitude.

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With that you can get onto the jet stream.

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You can ride the world's winds. Potentially, we could go

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right around the world and that's a bit of a dream of ours.

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Peter Gibbs.

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Now, when you think of space exploration, it's easy to

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focus on the spectacular rocket launches.

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But they're only the briefest part of a mission that can span

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years of planning beforehand and sometimes years of waiting afterwards

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while whatever you've launched gets itself into position.

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And this year, 2014 marks the end of a ten-year wait before

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EASA's most daring mission yet can reach its final stage.

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The Rosetta Project lifted off in 2004.

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Its mission - to investigate the origins of life on Earth.

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Scientists are hoping to find out whether the water frozen into comets

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contains complex-enough molecules to have created life here on our world.

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To do that, Rosetta is chasing down a comet called 67PCG,

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and that's the easy bit.

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The audacious plan is to orbit the 4km-wide chunk of ice

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and then land a probe on its surface...

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..all while half a billion kilometres from Earth,

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a distance at which any communication will take half an hour to reach it.

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As mission manager Fred Jansen explained,

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that makes it too far away to be controlled manually.

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Rosetta will have to fly itself.

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It is working autonomously, isn't it?

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Yes, because everything is preloaded on board in terms of commands.

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We load a few days of commands and it's executed by itself

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and after two days we load another set of commands.

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The universe is the most distant firmware upgrade, I guess.

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It's true. I mean, this makes life easier, in a sense,

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that you have these ten years, although you have to make sure that

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when you launch that all the elements, hardware-wise, are there

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to allow you to do what you need to do.

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One thing that will be decided by humans is the landing site.

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Rosetta will take images of the whole comet, and over about a month,

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the candidate sites will be gradually narrowed down

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from five to two to one.

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The reason for that stepping process is, we continuously come

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closer to the comet and our images, the resolution will increase.

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So at the time, we have to pick five.

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We don't have the resolution to pick the final one.

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-Who gets the final say on the final landing point? Is it you?

-Yes.

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-How do you feel about that?

-Well, it's my job. It's the way it is.

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It's going to be an exciting time and a very nerve-racking one too,

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as you've heard.

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Right, time to break from the Netherlands for a few minutes

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and head back to London or wherever it is that

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she keeps that mysterious underground bunker of hers.

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Here comes Kate Russell with Webscape.

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The rest of the team might have got to visit the

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European Space Agency this week

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but I've been enjoying a trip aboard the International Space Station.

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Virtually speaking, of course.

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Thanks to the ISS HD Earth-viewing experiment,

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we can all see what it's like to orbit Earth,

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which is rather spectacular.

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A picture speaks 1,000 words - so the saying goes -

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which is perhaps why the craze for infographics has

0:20:500:20:54

taken off on the web.

0:20:540:20:56

You don't need to be a designer to make your own as there

0:20:560:20:58

are a swathe of great tools hoping to cash in on this trend.

0:20:580:21:02

We looked at infogr.am a few months ago

0:21:020:21:05

and it is definitely a hot contender.

0:21:050:21:08

The company is also about to launch a video infographic maker,

0:21:080:21:11

which sounds pretty neat.

0:21:110:21:13

You can sign up for launch notification on their website.

0:21:130:21:16

If you follow me on social media, you might have heard me

0:21:220:21:25

talk about how annoying infographics are.

0:21:250:21:28

But don't get me wrong, done well,

0:21:280:21:30

like the example here from Socialnomics, they are a brilliant

0:21:300:21:34

addition to a web page and have been proven to drive more traffic.

0:21:340:21:39

There have been lots of psychological studies too,

0:21:390:21:42

determining that we learn and retain more from images than words.

0:21:420:21:46

But all too often I see them used as a cheap

0:21:460:21:50

and easy way to add eye candy to a website,

0:21:500:21:53

bringing no clarity to the subject, and in some cases just confusing it.

0:21:530:21:59

And that is no help to anyone.

0:21:590:22:01

Easel.ly is another neat tool that, as the name would suggest, is

0:22:040:22:08

really easy to pick up and start using.

0:22:080:22:11

Just choose a theme, then drop in your data to make your graphic.

0:22:110:22:15

If you're looking for work, visualize.me

0:22:220:22:24

will make an infographic out of your resume,

0:22:240:22:27

using data gleamed from your LinkedIn profile.

0:22:270:22:30

This is one-click simple

0:22:300:22:32

and you'll have an eye-catching introduction to share.

0:22:320:22:35

The key thing to consider when designing an infographic is

0:22:430:22:46

what kind of visualisation will make the data clearer.

0:22:460:22:50

I think this is where lots of makers get it wrong.

0:22:500:22:53

IBM has a neat experimental tool that lets you try out

0:22:530:22:57

lots of different styles, to see which one works.

0:22:570:23:01

It's called Many Eyes.

0:23:010:23:02

Head along to the research page

0:23:050:23:07

and try on a few styles with just a click.

0:23:070:23:10

Kate Russell's Webscape.

0:23:140:23:16

And just before we go, I thought I'd show you ESA's Mars Yard.

0:23:160:23:19

This is where they've been testing designs for the

0:23:190:23:22

ExoMars rover which is due to head to the Red Planet in 2018.

0:23:220:23:26

For example, they've been experimenting with different types

0:23:260:23:30

and numbers of wheels, and even the best way to control the thing

0:23:300:23:33

from back here on Earth.

0:23:330:23:35

Well, that is it. It's been a fascinating trip. Not just me, is it?

0:23:350:23:39

No, I didn't think so.

0:23:390:23:41

Hope you've enjoyed our brief voyage through the future of space travel,

0:23:410:23:44

and if you'd like more from us then visit our website.

0:23:440:23:48

And get in touch.

0:23:480:23:51

Or tweet us at...

0:23:510:23:53

Thank you very much for watching and we'll see you next time.

0:23:530:23:56

Click visits the European Space Agency to find out more about 'pocket' satellites. And Peter Gibbs travels to Malawi to launch a weather balloon.


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