Rupert Potter

Rupert Potter

British Consul General, Vancouver

Part of UK in Canada

19th December 2013 Vancouver, Canada

You Are The Cast

10, 9, 8, 7…  There are few events as exciting as the countdown to a rocket launch; and few contexts in which the words, “all systems normal” are as welcome. For whilst the odds seem high that all will go well, the pressure is immense, and the outcome potentially spectacular for all the wrong reasons. When successful though, there is something truly inspiring about it.

6, 5…  On 25 November, BC based company Urthecast organised the launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station (ISS). On board were two cameras made by British research group, Rutherford Appleton Labs (RAL). But what is so spectacular about this particular event, is that once the cameras have been installed, anyone with internet access will be able to view near live video feed of our planet on Urthecast’s web platform. The name is pronounced ‘earth cast’, but contains a cunning “u r the cast” within – the concept being that we can all be the cast in this show.

Speaking at the Urthcast launch at Science World in Vancouver.
Speaking at the UrtheCast launch at Science World in Vancouver.

4… RAL is one great example of a thriving UK space sector, a sector which contributes £9.1 billion a year to the economy, and has an average growth rate of almost 7.5%. RAL is also working on projects including measuring surface temperature of earth from space; studying planets around other stars that might have atmospheres; and looking at solar flares and coronal mass ejections (an area on which I am obviously an expert). This expertise is why Urthecast chose RAL to partner in the project.

3… While watching the launch, I came to wondering why this was all so exciting, beyond of course Urthecast and RAL’s expertise, and the potential risk of disaster. I think it’s because such endeavours bring together the wonder of space with mankind’s remarkable ability – both of which are astounding. I may be easily impressed, but I think there’s nothing wrong with that, in the right context.

2… make the point. The Milky Way is 4.6 billion years old and contains 300 billion stars (give or take a few I presume). The nearest galaxy is 40,850 billion km away (which takes a while to say let alone to calculate or travel).  And in the context of this vast expanse we are creating something remarkable. The ISS travels at 28,000 km/h, and in doing so, travels the equivalent of the distance to the moon and back every day.

1… There is something magical about space, something existential, something that brings us closer to the wonder of simply being alive in the middle of this vastness. It speaks to our connectivity with everything else. Neil de Grasse Tysson pointed out in one of his speeches that the elements that formed stars and planets are also found in life: “We are part of this universe. We are in the universe.  But more importantly, the universe is in us.”  Perhaps this is why, standing in Vancouver, watching a Russian rocket being launched from Kazakhstan carrying British cameras, I found the whole thing so inspiring.

About Rupert Potter

Rupert Potter has served as British Consul General in Vancouver since July 2012.