Britain’s only rocket, the Black Arrow, returns home after 48 years


The Black Arrow was unveiled today in Penicuik after an Edinburgh based rocket company, called Skyrora, salvaged the spent rocket from its crash landing site in the Australian outback.

It was the UK’s only successful rocket launch, placing a satellite, named Prospero, in orbit back in 1971.

The program was actually cancelled just before the successful mission due to funding concerns, although the last launch was allowed to go ahead. Upon returning to Earth, the rocket was left 10,000 miles from home to gather dust and graffiti for 48 years.

EN4 News spoke to Mike Taylor, Satellite Launch Programme Director at the UK Space Agency. We discussed the history and significance of Black Arrow, where the UK’s efforts in space are now and where they might go in the future. Listen to our interview in full here;

InSight lands on Mars

After months in space and a truly harrowing entry to Mars’ atmosphere, NASA’s InSight probe gently touched down on Mars.

The Insight probe — the full name of which is actually Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — touched down safely on Mars’ Elysium Planitia at 7:52pm on the evening of Monday November 26, making it the eighth successful unmanned mission to Mars in the history of mankind.

WATCH: The moment InSight touched down:

At at a post-landing briefing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California Insight’s Project Manager Tom Hoffman remarked “I’m very, very happy that it looks like we have an incredibly safe and boring looking landing location”.

Elysium Planitia, located in the northern hemisphere and near the equator of the red planet, is a soft sandy plain on the Martian surface — a perfect spot for InSight to carry out its life purpose: to study the geology of Mars’ core.

Essentially an interplanetary geologist, the InSight probe is distinct from the famous Mars Rovers, in that the probe will remain in place for the duration of its mission. It will dig deep into the Martian crust, searching for so called marsquakes and drawing a picture of what lies beneath the surface from the data it collects.

“In the coming months and years the history books will be rewritten about the interior of Mars” Michael Watkins, JPL’S Director predicted in the press briefing.

Before the mission can officially start, more definitive checks will be carried out to assure the spacecraft’s on-board equipment and mechanics have survived the tough entry into Mars’ hostile atmosphere.

InSight entered the planet’s atmosphere at 12,300 miles per hour and slowed itself down to a walking pace in around seven minutes. A combination of rockets and parachutes allowed the craft to land safely on the plain, which has been described as being as horizontal as a car park in the famously flat Kansas.

credit to Nasa - Scott

NASA’s probe InSight. (Photo Credit: NASA)

The landing concluded a journey which began in May 2018 and 300 million miles away on planet Earth. The Insight probe was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on the May 5, 2018, from an Atlas V-401 Rocket, making it the first Mars’ mission launched from the west coast of the United States as opposed to Florida on the east coast.


InSight was closely followed by two NASA CubeSats — miniaturised satellites about the size of a briefcase — called Mars Cube One or MarCO. These types of satellites are easily and relatively cheaply sent up to orbit earth but this mission marks their first use deep in our solar system, offering the possibility of improved communications and data collection infrastructure in deep space.

Probes over People

The landing is great news but looking at the bigger picture of deep space exploration you might be moved to ask — where are all the people?

It’s a good question and it is one that is getting asked more and more of late. Since the discontinuation of the shuttle program in 2011, NASA’s operations have become a lot more geared toward unmanned scientific exploration.

Think of deep space milestones of late; the curiosity rover on Mars, the New Horizons probe responsible for beautiful close ups of the dwarf planet Pluto, and now Mars’ InSight.

Since the last mission to the Moon in the 1970’s there have been no humans beyond low-Earth orbit. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic first landing on the Moon and see private companies like SpaceX inch ever closer to perfecting their own space launch systems, the question regarding when humans will next explore deep space in person will become central to U.S space policy.

Under the current administration NASA has received a slight increase in funding to just under US$20 billion — a rather modest amount as federal agencies go — and outlined goals for a permanent presence on the moon as the main deep space goal acting as a way station for an eventual trip to Mars.

Credit to NASA

The hope is to station humans on Mars in the future (Photo Credit: NASA)

The fundamentals of these plans pre-dated the Trump administration as the space agency developed a new Space launch system and deep space craft called Orion.

Some outlandish proposals have been put forward by the Trump administration, such as the so called “Space Force”— an American military presence in space. The idea has been met with derision, with Former U.S. Navy Captain and retired Astronaut Mark Kelly tweeting that it was ‘a dumb idea”.

However, NASA’s official line remains true to the goal of putting humans on the red planet.

Only exploring low earth orbit might seem like having stayed in the shallow end of the pool but it has been responsible for falling costs more reusable space technology and so more access to space.

NASA’s Administrator Jim Bridenstine reckoned optimistically in InSight’s post landing press conference when asked will humans will get there; “I’m going with the mid 2030’s”.

Commuting to Edinburgh saves you £82k on house prices, says Bank of Scotland

A recent analysis by the Bank of Scotland finds that buyers can expect to save an average of £82,088 when commuting from towns outside of the capital. 

The research pitted average wages in the centres of Edinburgh and Glasgow against average house prices in their respective commuter towns.

The results show how much you might save travelling into the countries two biggest cities rather than living in their centres.

Edinburgh fared the best with commutes from 30 to 60 minutes outside of the city on average saving you over £80k on property values. North Berwick, Dunbar and Livingston were some of the towns cited but Kirkcaldy was the most affordable, with house prices just 3.2 times the average yearly salary for workers in Edinburgh.

The average savings for Edinburgh were said to be enough to pay for 35 years of commuting into the city at current rail fares.

Kirsty Mengham, a 23-year-old Property Manager working in the Bruntsfield area south of the city, recently bought a property in Fife, deciding to commute.

Speaking on the benefits of going further afield, Kirsty says the value is worth it and that she still sees the move as being good for her in the long term.

“I feel like a lot of people are being pushed out of Edinburgh by high property values, so it’s still a sound investment”.

Although there is money to be saved in commuting, there are still other issues associated with time lost and stress with lengthy commutes to and from satellite towns.

“It can be bad sometimes, taking an hour or more getting home, but I’m looking long-term, rather than at the short-term sacrifice,” Kirsty said.

While the benefits are very clear in the east, the west is a different story. House prices initially dip but then rise, and eclipse inner city prices the further you go outside of Glasgow.

Towns like Paisley, just 15 minutes outside of Glasgow see buyers saving an average of £50k over city prices.

Interestingly, however, as you get further afield to areas like Dumfries and Perth – with a 60-minute commute to Glasgow – the trend goes sharply in the opposite direction, with house prices rising to an average of £52k more than what you might pay without the commute.

One thing to keep in mind though is how commuting needs efficient transportation services to be an option. Read more on how Edinburgh Waverly is servicing passengers;

Edinburgh Waverley station worst in Scotland for delays and cancellations




Home crowd at the Hydro: Kevin Bridges Review


Fans gathered at the SSE Hydro for the 14th night of Kevin Bridge’s sell-out tour. Credit to Guy Percival.

“That’s my sermon for the Sunday crowd!”–mild Kevin Bridges spoilers to follow. 

I recently went to see Clydebank comic Kevin Bridges on night 14 of his 19 sold out dates in a row at the SSE Hydro as part of his Brand New tour.

Selling out the nations biggest venue, 19 nights in a row is an achievement enough, but beyond that – after 3 sell-out UK tours – Kevin Bridges is still really funny.

In his warm Glaswegian brand of observational comedy, Bridges tackled a range of topics from Brexit and Trump to social media addiction and simply ordering Chinese food. Playing to his home crowd, he related international events to the sketchier of characters everyone in Glasgow, or Scotland for that matter, will know all too well.

None of this is to say that Bridges only goes for the topical, or dances around the fact that he is by this point a household name. Refreshingly, he talks a lot about the fame and fortune he has enjoyed, and how inconspicuous it makes him when trying to do things as simple as go for coffee in Glasgow’s West End.

And with that his persona has changed, he’s not really Clydebank anymore, he’s Byres Road. Years of success and a change of environment haven’t stopped Bridges from picking apart the human condition in his signature style, both as he sees it in Glasgow’s people and in world events. If anything, I’d say he’s getting better.

Despite going on his 14th night, there was still a buzz and sense of excitement in the crowd, and that is not something I’d expect Bridges to lose anytime soon.





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