Focus: They do what...? Byways of the charity world - The British Interplanetary Society

Mathew Little

The US has Nasa, based at Mission Control, Houston, Texas. The UK has the British Interplanetary Society, based at 27/29 South Lambeth Road. But despite its humble surroundings, the society occupies a stellar place in the history of space exploration.

It was founded in 1933 by space flight pioneers who wanted to use rocket propulsion to fly to the moon and the planets.

Before the outbreak of the Second World War, and well before Wernher Von Braun had been nabbed by the Americans, the society's members had already made the first plans for a rocket that could land men on the moon and return them to Earth. In the post-war era, the ideas kept flowing - space stations, galaxy-gazing telescopes, outer space probes, listening for extra-terrestrials and satellites.

These days the society still encourages new thinking about space exploration through its awards - the Arthurs - named in honour of long-standing member Arthur C Clarke.

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