The best of broadband - space
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Date: 27 May, 2005

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'I am not wholly convinced that a moon-tan and a tube of processed food will adequately replace a Pina Colada on the beach at Marbella. '

Ray Hatley looks at the best Space-based websites for broadband users.

Deep space is something of a mystery to me (and to a lot of other people too methinks!), in fact I had little interest in the great unexplored until I discovered the Hubble telescope website.

Suddenly I was able to put things in perspective. I realized that space really is absolutely and incredibly huge and quite capable of providing a home to any number of Daleks and Cybermen.

It all started with the Hubble site which is part of a massive repository of highly detailed photographs of the solar system which apparently reveal far off galaxies. Unfortunately, to my untutored eye, the images bear a remarkably strong resemblance to a horrible early MS Windows screensaver.

You remember the one with all the stars rushing towards you – if you looked at it for too long it made you feel nauseous and you didn’t like to say anything in case people thought you were a wimp. Frankly, most deep space pictures tend to look like that so get used to it.

I moved swiftly on to www.nasa.gov and was amazed to discover Captain Jonathan Archer of the Starship Enterprise in a brilliant piece of video telling me all about the space shuttle program and building space stations. It looked very much like he was being interviewed on the flight deck of the Enterprise. You might want to take a minute to find the superb free downloads.

I was quite prepared to believe that Captain Archer of the Enterprise was moonlighting on the space shuttle, but the next website stretched my incredulity just about as far as it would go. Have a look at Space Tourism Society and see where the boffins think we will be spending our summer holidays in the future.

I am not wholly convinced that a moon-tan and a tube of processed food will adequately replace a Pina Colada on the beach at Marbella - but what do I know?

Much smarter people than me reckon that paying a small fortune to wear the same clothes for days and going without decent grub, comfy beds and showers will catch on. It sounds far too much like camping in Italy.

I have to say that Cool Cosmos is much more fun. This nicely designed infrared astronomy website for kids and teachers offers a range of ‘out of this world’ information and some very clever, albeit quite basic, educational games. Just what you need after all that space holiday nonsense!

Actually, space travel is a very hard to imagine when you have spent your whole life whizzing around at ground level so I was delighted to discover Space Wander where space travel becomes an interactive virtual reality.

This incredible website offers a 12 minute trip around the universe with pauses at strategic beauty spots. Just sign up for a free flight and do hang on for the full 12 minutes because the closing sequences are some of the best. Amazing.

Humour aside, the internet offers some really superb astronomical websites and these are only a small and easily digested sample. Unfortunately astronomy does seem to attract a huge number of anoraks and train spotters so please don’t expect all sites to be particularly accessible or even interesting.

I was particularly irritated by the European Space Agency’s rather dull website that claims space technology is making daily life better for people who live in Europe. Sadly the site is so boring I clicked away before finding out what I was missing.

To be honest, it might be science fiction, but for my money www.startrek.com offers a far more interesting read and for sheer entertainment and outstanding broadband content just click on www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho

Real space travel has a heck of a lot to live up to!

Ray Hatley is a freelance journalist working for a number of national newspapers ands magazines.

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