Thursday, 22 December 2011

A few more notes on yesterday

December 21st 2011 also saw the launch of a Dutch astronaut, Andrew Kuipers, into space on board a Russian Soyuz rocket, bound for the International Space Station. Kuipers, a medical doctor, is scheduled to spend nearly 6 months on board ISS, conducting 57 scientific experiments during that time. The hours leading up to launch revealed some interesting rituals, some of which date back 50 years to the launch of Yuri Gagarin as first man into space in 1961. These include signing the door of the hotel room with his signature, urinating against the right rear tyre of the bus that takes the cosmonauts to the rocket and not watching the rocket being wheeled out to the launch pad as that brings bad luck. At 13.16 GMT, the rocket blasted off into the night sky of Baykonur (Kazachstan) and within 10 minutes had reached cruising speed of 17,500 mph at an altitude of 220 km (128 miles). The ISS orbits the earth at an altitude of about 250 miles (400 km).

Rather less salubrious was the crazy incident during a football match in Amsterdam. A drunk hooligan ran onto the pitch and tried to tackle the goalkeeper of one of the teams. The goalie instead floored the hooligan and kicked him twice, before stewards intervened. The hooligan was arrested, but the match was abandoned. The goalkeeper was red-carded for violent conduct. The Dutch FA (KNVB) will decide on the eventual outcome of the match and the red card.

23 years ago yesterday, flight PanAm 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, leading to the loss of more than 200 passengers and crew, as well as 11 innocent townspeople in Lockerbie, a small town 30 miles north of Carlisle. One man was convicted for the atrocity, but he was repatriated to Libya in 2009. Although Abdulbaset al-Megrahi was not expected to live for more than 3 months, he is reportedly still alive. His paymaster, Muammer Gaddafi, was killed last October.

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