First astronaut to run a marathon in space

Despite what several major-media organisations may have reported in recent months, the first astronaut to run a marathon in space was Sunita Williams. She ran the Boston Marathon in 2007 onboard the International Space Station.

The Telegraph (UK), ITV News (UK) and the Courier Mail (Australia) all seem to think that Tim Peake will be the "first person" to do this during tomorrow's London Marathon.

The Telegraph gets it wrong

ITV News incorrectly claims "Tim Peake will become the first ever person to take on a marathon while in space"

The Courier Mail claims "UK astronaut in space marathon first"

Given their publication dates of these stories, I imagine that they read the Principia Mission blog, saw "Tim Peake will become the first man to run a marathon in space", and didn't appreciate that "man" was a very necessary qualifier to the statement. Converting "first man" to "first person" may be due to an unconscious assumption that men set records first. It also suggests that these stories were written by people who didn't have any relevant background knowledge or time for basic fact checking.

US news outlets (including the Washington Post and Fox News) have remembered that Sunita Williams already did a marathon. Hopefully that isn't just because she is American.

Good luck to Tim for the London marathon tomorrow morning. He could break Sunita Williams' current record for completing a marathon in space.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Saturday 23rd Apr 2016 (18:08 BST) | Permalink

Why has astronaut Helen Sharman been written out of history?

This is an unexpected follow up to my last blog post about Britain's first astronaut.

Our first astronaut was Helen Sharman. In 1991! I just saw an article on the Guardian website whose title is "Blast off! Why has astronaut Helen Sharman been written out of history?". That is a very good question. Although it doesn't discuss it in the article, a good example is that newspapers - including the very same one this article is from - write her out of their headlines. Remember the Guardian's "Britain's first astronaut hails 'exciting times' for UK's place in spaceflight" from 2014? That headline was referring to Tim Peake who is the seventh British-born person in space. Of course this is how she has been written out of history, not why. To get to the answer to why, they could perhaps ask their colleagues.

I'm not just a complaining person; I try to fix things too. That is why, before the launch of Tim Peake I made an effort to improve Helen Sharman's Wikipedia entry which was sparse and had a big "this is unreliable" off-putting warning at the top of it. After I made a start, others joined in and the result is, I hope, a much better article.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 18th Apr 2016 (17:46 BST) | Permalink
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