There was excitement in Bristol the last couple of days, since Dr Who were in town, filming. Dr Who is about an intergalactic space traveller who goes around the universe doing amazing things.
About nine on Monday I got a tweet saying they were in Corn St, and Matt Smith was about to turn up on set. I was tempted to go and have a gander, but wanted an early night. After some consideration, I decided that it would be worth getting into, I mean, out of bed, for David Tennant but not Matt Smith. So I went and did something more exciting than gawking at an actor and some cardboard props, I got myself some real space action.
That's it. It's pretty hot, right? No, look, its not a speck of fluff! Honestly. That tiny point of light is the International Space Station. I'd been told it would turn up at 9.19BST, travelling West to East, so I went out a couple of minutes before, and stood on the street corner where you can get a good view of the sky. It's not far from the airport, there's a lot of air traffic, and I wasn't sure how to tell it wasn't a plane. Right on cue, something I thought might be the ISS appeared. So did a man with a Maasai-style ear-piercings and an African accent, who politely enquired why I was squinting up into the night.
“I think that's the International Space Station,' I said. “There's six people on board.” (I know this because of this useful website).
“That's quite interesting,” said Maasai-ears. We both peered at the passing light for a bit. It went past. It really didn't have any tail lights. It really was a space station. I took this rubbish photo. Maasai-ears went off, and so did I.
It was the most exciting thing that'd happened in ages. I felt like a kid in a movie, waving at a bi-plane. History being made. Humanity, casting off its surly bonds, that kind of thing. Then I thought of how often I glance up and mutter, 'ugh, Easyjet'. How I loved it when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano cleared the sky, and it was empty and beautiful. In fifty years time, will we all be looking up and going 'ugh, seventeen space stations now. Why don't they all just bog off so I can look at the stars?'
Space exploration and science in general are doing amazing things right now. Finding possible sites for life inside our own solar system. Taking photos of Mars. Smashing up atoms under a mountain in Switzerland. Even communications systems which we already take for granted, which mean that I can idly message someone in another hemisphere – 'yaaaay, I saw a spaceship!' - so they can laugh and humour me. Maasai-ears probably logged into Facebook, to tell friends in back home. Twenty years ago, we'd have both had to wait a week for a letter to be delivered.
When you look at this photo from the space station, you can see us, all lit up and connected. It is breathtaking and beautiful, isn't it? Not to mention a little scary. But I'm still a kid in a field, waving at a bi-plane, in a funny sort of way.