The Cosmic Shed
Door 20 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door 20 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 20, 2018

It's time to open Door Number 20 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar and we've got two treats for you inside today. Not only do we have a rather stellar guest making a return to the shed but we have a guest presenter making her first ever appearance on The Cosmic Shed.

We'll reveal their identities down the page but if you'd like the retain the surprise, don't scroll down, simply play the episode in your favourite podcast app or click play on this post. It's usually at the top but sometimes at the bottom.

To push the identity of today's guests further down the page, here's a photograph of a Professor of Cosmology. Not every day you see a Theoretical Astrophysicist dressed as The James Webb Space Telescope.


Prof Ethan Siegel does not spend all his time studying the Big Bang.

Behind Door Number 20 is Professor Ethan Siegel, friend of the shed and all round excellent Professor of Cosmology. Shed subscribers will remember Ethan from our episodes on Star Trek Discovery and Lost in Space.

That 20 on the door is made up of two deep space objects. One is NGC 1365, The Great Barred Spiral Galaxy 56 million light years away from Earth. The other is the Ring Nebula, in the constellation Lyra. What you're seeing is the shell of ionized gas which has been expelled by a red giant star, which was evolving into a white dwarf.

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NGC 1365 (ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/ R. Gendler, J-E. Ovaldsen, C. Thöne, and C. Feron.) and
The Ring Nebula The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)

We promised you two treats though and the host of today's Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Lyra. Lyra (7) is Andrew's daughter and she woke up one day and said, "Daddy, can I be on The Cosmic Shed one day. I have two questions which I would like to know the answers to." Listen in to find out what those questions were and why Prof Ethan Siegel is the perfect guest to answer them.

show notes

Ethan has published two books...so far Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology and also writes Starts with a Bang on Forbes.com

Treknology was on the shortlist for The Physics World Book of the Year.

The Cosmic Shed was also the home to The Physics World Stories podcast this month. You can listen in here and find out who won The Physics World Book of the Year. It is hosted by our Andrew.

Door 19 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door 19 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 19, 2018

It's time to open Door Number 19 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar.  To find out the identity of today's guests, simply click play above or below here (wherever your browser has put the play button).

Alternatively, download all the episodes of The Cosmic Shed going back to 2014 and eventually get to this one. Alternatively, download them all and listen at your leisure in no particular order.

As always, we're mainly typing words here to push the identity of today's guests further down the page so you don't accidentally find out who they are before listening to the podcast. That would spoil the surprise.

Here's a photograph of the man who controls R2D2 in all the Star Wars films since The Force Awakens.


Lee Towersey is the droid building fan who got hired to actually control R2D2 for real.

Behind Door Number 19 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Alfie Wearn. Alfie is conducting a trial to try and find a way to detect Dementia early but it turns out that he does a half decent impression of C3PO which turned out to be rather useful for this episode.

Alfie joined Andrew to talk about his work, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Inception, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Still Alice, Inside Out and Elf.

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Alfie Wearn and R2D2. Spot the TARDIS on the Christmas Tree.

Oh and there's that C3PO impression which comes in handy because also behind Door Number 18 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Lee Towersey, the man behind R2D2 in the recent Star Wars films.


Lee and someone who isn't our Andrew

You can listen to the podcast to get the full experience but here is a transcript of the interview Andrew did with Lee.

What is your role and what does it entail?

I am a member of the Creature Effects Department based at Pinewood Studios. We have a number of departments within CFX, my department being Model Making. We are sometimes referred to as the Droid Department as that is mainly what we make. I started by building droids for The Force Awakens, my main build being the four R2D2s Oliver & I built. I also built the Mouse Droids, Toolbox Droids and dressing various droids including the Gonks. I’m also fortunate enough to be on set operating the droids I’ve built.

How did it feel when they said "ok, you're R2D2"?

Oliver Steeples was attending Celebration in Essen with a number of R2 Builders. A few of the guys asked Kathleen Kennedy if they wanted Astromechs building for the new Star Wars films. Amazingly a few months later Oliver received a phone call from the Production Team who went round his house to inspect his work. Next thing I know, Oliver called me to ask if I could join him for a trip to Pinewood to explain how we built out Astromechs along with talking about the work we have done together. We had done a lot of Lucasfilm promotional work and a TV advert together so I guess we were already on the Lucasfilm ‘radar’. After a few weeks we went back to Pinewood Studios for yet another meeting which turned out to be a job interview and we both left the meeting having been offered jobs with Neal Scanlan’s CFX team.

Any stories from filming you can share with us?

I do have some great stories but due to NDA I am not able to share I’m afraid!

What else can we see your work in?

Apart from the occasional Month or so off between films I have been working in the CFX Department on Star Wars since The Force Awakens. Oliver left after TFA but I have continued to look after R2D2 and operating him on every film since. I have built other droids including the A-LT track droid seen very briefly in Rogue One and seen a little more in Solo. I have been part of a team assisting with many other builds along with running regular maintenance on the droids to keep them as reliable as possible when on set.

Do you have a favourite R2 moment from the films?

One of my favourite moments was operating R2 on the Falcon during The Last Jedi. When we shot the scene where R2 wakes up and drives over to Luke to talk to him it felt like a special scene at the time and I feel turned out to be pretty good in the film. When we reached Luke we switched out the 3 legged remote control R2 for the two legged version. Jimmy Vee was inside the two legged R2 at the time with me performing the head movement via remote control. People have asked me if the Leia projection was shot after Carrie Fishers passing. It wasn’t, we shot that before her death and it was always meant to be in that scene, it turns out it was a nice nod to Carrie Fisher in her memory.

show notes

You can hear our podcast on The Last Jedi behind Door Number Eight of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

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Door 8 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar came with free lens flare.

Alfie mentions the Jennifer Aniston neuron. You can read about that here.
Andrew mentions riding a Kelpie. That looks like this.

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Door 18 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door 18 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 18, 2018

It's time to open Door Number 18 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar.

The identity of today's guest will be revealed lower down the page but if you'd hear who they are by listening to the episode then simply press play above, or below (depending on how your browser has laid this out).

To shift their identity further down the page, here's a photograph.


Florence Schechter (second from the left) is a science communicator and Director of The Vagina Museum

Behind Door Number 18 is Florence Schechter, Director of The Vagina Museum. The Vagina Museum is to Museums what the Icelandic Phallological Museum is also to Museums, only newer, about a different body part and not in Iceland.

Florence is a science communicator who also does a spot of Stand Up comedy and you can get tickets to her show Queer By Nature here.


Florence's show Queer by Nature is on in February, in London.

Florence talks to Andrew about comedy, biomedical science, the Vagina Museum, War of the Worlds and Lost in Space.

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Florence chatting to our Andrew

show notes

Get tickets for Florence's show now
Andrew mentions Fred Hoyle's The Black Cloud

Door 17 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door 17 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 17, 2018

It's time to open Door 17 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar and we are getting terribly close to Christmas now. Have we all read some Dickens, drunk some mulled wine and roasted some chestnuts? Probably not. Christmas means different things to different people. Have you noticed that we tend to just type words here to push the identity of today's guest down the page a bit?

That's because some people like to have the identity of the guest remain secret until we "open the door" on the podcast episode each day. Here's a photo of a book to push the identity even further down the page.


Jessica Fox wrote this book.

Behind Door 17 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Jessica Fox, author, screenwriter and director. Fox was a resident storyteller at NASA, is Chief Narrative Officer for Hidden Genius and enjoys feeding her inner nerd by story consulting for science and tech organisations.

Jessica, like us, believes that Science needs Storytellers so who better for our Advent Calendar?

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Jessica makes films and used to be resident storyteller at NASA as well as writing books.

show notes

Jessica was talking to Maddy.
Jessica mentions Jay O'Callahan. He will shortly be getting an email from us.

Door 16 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door 16 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 16, 2018

It's time to open Door Number 16 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. You know the drill by now, you press play above or below, depending on how your page has set this out and what you are viewing it on. Alternatively, you download this episode to your phone or computer or Palm Pilot and listen at your leisure.

We'll pop some words here to hide the identity of today's guest(s) further down the page so you won't have the surprise spoiled when you listen. So far, we've enjoyed guests as diverse as singer songwriters, people who study the supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies and people who played Cylons in Battlestar Galactica. Who will it be today?

Here's a picture to make the identities go even further down the page.


District 9 has been coming up a fair bit in the Advent Calendar

Behind Door Number 16 is Professor Guy Orpen, Vice Chancellor of Bristol University and Tom Adams, performer.

There's talk of Chemistry, X-Ray Crystallography and District 9, along with a song.

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Guy and Tom.

Tom Adams is currently appearing in Aladdin at The Miracle Theatre in Cornwall.

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Door 15 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door 15 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 15, 2018

It's time to open Door Number 15 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. Who is behind the door?

As ever, we'll push the identity of today's guest(s) further down the page so you can avoid spoilers and simply press play above and let the surprise fill your ears, like a massive chocolate snowflake.

In order to keep the identities hidden further down the page, here are some photos of some people from Cheltenham Science Festivals Lab Live tour.

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Dr Jess Barker and Freaky Clown (Ethical Hackers)

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Russell Arnott and Suze Kundu (with someone in costume - no, that's a real moustache)

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Left to right: Charli Shephard, Dr Elspeth Kenny, Lizzy Goodger, Russell Arnott, Matthew Tosh, Dr Suze Kundu

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This is not an electronic music band.

Behind Door Number 15 (see what we did in the image there?) of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar are Russell Arnott, Dr Suze Kundu, Lizzy Goodger, Dr Elspeth Kenny, Freaky Clown, Dr Jess Barker and Matthew Tosh.

show notes

FAO Matthew: Star Wars is a series of films, tv series, books and comics set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Russell was talking to everyone backstage at the Cheltenham Science Festival Lab Live Tour.

Freaky Clown and Dr Jess Barker run Cygenta

 

Door 14 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door 14 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 14, 2018

It's time to open Door Number 14 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. To find out who is behind the door, simply press play above or download the Cosmic Shed podcast to your favourite podcast app and listen at your leisure.

As always, we'll be putting some words and pictures here to make the identity of today's guest move further down the page to avoid spoilers should you wish to find out by listening. As you may have noticed, however, we've been posting some not so subtle hints about who is behind the door so, rather excitingly, here's a photo on Mars taken this month by the Mars Insight lander. (Yes, we're VERY excited too)


NASA's Insight took this "selfie" on Mars.

Behind Door Number 14 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Dr Bob Myhill at the University of Bristol who has been working on the Mars Insight mission, looking at seismic activity on Mars.

Bob joined Steve to talk about this unbelievably wonderful mission which has already returned the first ever sounds of wind from an alien planet (which you can hear in this episode).

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Dr Bob Myhill is talking to Dr Steve Bullock (of The Cosmic Shed)

Steve and Bob chat about Battlestar Galactica (the original series) and Battlestar Galactica (the considerably better series). They also mention that we had a few days ago...

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Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer and The Cosmic Shed's Ti (behind Door 5 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar)

Bob also discusses his love for The Expanse and Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn) and, of course NASA (and Bob's) InSight and the wonderful New Horizons 

show notes

We're loving the advent calendar. We hope you are too. Do tell your friends. We gain nothing from this but sharing our love of all things science and science fiction.

Door 13 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door 13 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 13, 2018

It's time to open Door 13 of The Cosmic Shed advent calendar. Simply press play above or subscribe and play on your favourite podcast delivery system. 

We've been discussing 'Oumuamua, the interstellar visitor a fair bit of late and we've brought someone rather key to that whole discovery for you today. Someone whose TEDtalk on the subject has received well over 3 millions views.

Here's an artist's impression of 'Oumuamua to push the identity of today's guest further down the page to allow you to have it as a surprise when you listen to the episode.


'Oumuamua means first messenger from the distant past.

Behind Door Number 13 is Dr Karen Meech. Karen is the person people call when they think they have found something from outside our solar system careering through it. An astronomer on Hawaii, Karen has been studying the skies for years, looking for something out of the ordinary to come along. In October 2017, they discovered just that. Something truly extraordinary.

Andrew has been writing a feature article on Oumuamua for Physics World and watched Karen's TEDtalk (which you can see below) and just had to know more so called up Karen (who was at NASA's JPL working on a new mission proposal) to talk about this amazing discovery.

Their conversation is behind the Door 13 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar.

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Karen's talk has been considerably more popular since Avi Loeb said Oumuamua might be aliens

 

Door 12 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door 12 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 12, 2018

It's time to open Door Number 10 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. To find out who is talking to us behind the door, simply press play above, download the podcast to your favourite podcast platform or scroll down the page sufficiently to find their identity.

We've talked Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Black Mirror. Don't you think it's about time we had a bit of Star Trek in this advent calendar? 

Anyway, here's a picture from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to push the identity of today's guest further down the page...


Andrew Robinson as Garak in Deep Space Nine

Behind Door 12 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Andrew Robinson. Andrew played Garak in Deep Space Nine as well as some of the most celebrated bad guys in movies like Dirty Harry and Hellraiser. He joined the The Cosmic Shed's Ti to talk about these roles and lots more as the London Film & TV Comic Con.

We're delighted to be able to bring that chat to you now in this Advent Calendar episode of The Cosmic Shed.


Andrew Robinson as Scorpio in Dirty Harry


Andrew Robinson in Hellraiser

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Andrew Robinson talking to Ti for The Cosmic Shed

show notes

Ti's book Born to be Bad: Talking to the greatest villains in action cinema is available to buy here

Door 11 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door 11 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 11, 2018

It's time to open Door 11 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. We're delighted to welcome back a friend of the Cosmic Shed whose identity will be revealed when you press play above or scroll down the page. As you may have noticed, we have been dropping little hints in the numbered door images and today, we have two NASA SLS rockets to make the number 11.

Around this time next year, NASA plans to launch the SLS (Space Launch System) to go around the Moon and back again as a test mission for future flights with astronauts on board. 


Credit: NASA. Size comparisons for the Shuttle, Saturn V and SLS

Behind Door 11 of The Cosmic Shed today is NASA's Dr Renee Horton. Renee is an engineer who has worked on the SLS and is now working on its Quality and Safety. Renee joined Andrew for an update on the SLS and to discuss Renee's new venture, alongside her work at NASA, as the author of Dr.H Explores the universe. 

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Dr Renee Horton talking to our Andrew via Skype.

Renee first joined us for our episode on Hidden Figures and we're delighted to welcome her back for our Advent Calendar. You can listen to all the previous (and future) advent calendar episodes by visiting www.thecosmicshed.com

show notes

Renee mentions NASA's Barge

You can buy the adventures of Dr H in book form here


Dr.H is also available in doll form.

Door 10 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door 10 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 10, 2018

It's time to open Door 10 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. We're returning to a shed favourite again today but a brand new conversation. He is an ultra sound kind of chap.

Again, we'll keep his identity hidden until farther down the page but typing some words here. Did you know that "farther" is used for physics distance and "further" is used for metaphorical distance. So the farther we push the identity down the page, the further you feel from knowing their identity.

By the way, did you know our most watched video on our YouTube Channel is this clip from one of our live events with the demonstration of a real life Tractor Beam...

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Behind Door 10 of The Cosmic Shed is Professor Bruce Drinkwater. The good professor first came to our attention, and The Shed, when he was part of the team who created a sonic screwdriver. Given our love of Doctor Who, that was a bit too exciting for us but then Bruce went and worked on a sonic Tractor Beam so we had to do a live event with him.

Given Advent is a time for celebrating with friends, we thought we'd see what Professor Drinkwater has been up to since. You can find out in this episode of The Cosmic Shed podcast.

Have they made breakthroughs in the sonic tractor beam work? Can you levitate sprouts around the Christmas Table? Seriously, what's an ascending tricolon?

show notes

Bruce was talking to Maddy.

Door Nine - Hattie Briggs

Door Nine - Hattie Briggs

December 9, 2018

Behind Door 9 of The Cosmic Shed advent calendar is an old friend of the Shed from the early days back in 2015. It's sometimes hard to believe that we've been doing this for quite that long but it's been a whole lot of fun and we thank you all for sticking with us through everything.

To play this episode, simply press play above and let the identity of today's guest appear like the surprise only an advent calendar door can create.

The Cosmic Shed has remained its rickety old self, with the odd collapsed roof and broken door over the last three years but with guests like Chris Hadfield, Tricia Helfer, Jill Tarter, Benedict Cumberbatch, Nichelle Nichols and Lord Martin Rees, the podcast recorded in it punches far above its weight.

Here's a classic photo from the Cosmic Shed archive to push the identity of today's guest further down the page...to avoid spoilers.


Hattie Briggs in The Cosmic Shed back in the early days of the shed.

Behind Door 9 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Hattie Briggs. Hattie is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.Recently named Fender Undiscovered Artist of the Year 2017, she won the prize of supporting Lucy Rose at the prestigious O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire. Her music brings together pop, folk and electronic influences, which she delivers with honesty and intent. 

Hattie first joined us, alongside Chris Hadfield, for our episode on Gravity back in 2015 but you can also hear Commander Hadfield in our episode on Apollo 13. Listen to this special Advent Calendar episode of The Cosmic Shed to find out what happened when Andrew asked Hattie, "If you were on the International Space Station, looking back at Earth, what song would you sing?"

Maddy returns to the Shed this episode, having passed her VIVA for the PhD. Congratulations to Dr Maddy Nichols who now joins Dr Steve Bullock as the most academically decorated Cosmic Shed hosts. Andrew and Ti are too busy watching films, reading books and chatting to get PhDs...that's their excuse anyway.

show notes

You can find out more and buy music by Hattie Briggs here

Door VIII of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door VIII of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 8, 2018

Episode VIII of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is now available right here. Simply click play above and the identity of today's guest behind The Cosmic Shed door will be revealed.

Alternatively, you can head to your favourite Podcast App, search for The Cosmic Shed and subscribe, allowing each episode of our advent calendar of science and science fiction to drop into your phone each morning.

You can, of course, also listen to The Cosmic Shed on Spotify here. In fact, if you say "Alexa, play the Cosmic Shed podcast" within earshot of an Amazon Alexa, she'll do all the work for you.

Here's a photo of something from Star Wars because we like Star Wars, particularly at Christmas and, also, because we want to hide the identity of today's guest further down the page to avoid spoilers.


Are we the baddies?

Behind Door 8 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Morten Bay. Morten is the man who hit the headlines for his research showing political activism from Russia and the US was behind much of the negative twitter reaction to The Last Jedi film.

Rian Johnson's Last Jedi is the eighth instalment in the main Star Wars saga (see what we did there?) and we were more than a little surprised and disappointed by some of the reaction to it. When Morten's research hit the headlines, there was only one thing to do.

Morten joined Andrew to discuss his findings and their mutual love for all things Star Wars.

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This photo of Morten Bay will make more sense when you listen to this episode of The Cosmic Shed.

Sit back, pour yourself a glass of (blue) milk and prepare to be dumbfounded by the real world and get an overwhelming urge to find the biggest screen you can and watch The Last Jedi all over again.

show notes

Morten's research "Weaponising the haters:The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation" is here

Door Seven - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door Seven - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 7, 2018

It's time to open Day 7's door on the Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. Simply press play above and let the episode into your ears using technology.

Have you ever noticed how reliant we are on technology? Of course you have. Yesterday, in the UK, this was the lead story on the BBC website. A phone network was down. 

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HELP! We can't text people!

Behind Door 7 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Andrew Spooner, Technologist for Microsoft. Andrew's job is to look at the world and wonder how we could improve it with technology. That means he is a massive fan of Black Mirror. Well, that and the fact that Black Mirror is brilliant.

Andrew has the same name as Andrew so that makes this blog post quite difficult given our desire to use first names as much as possible but to clarify, Andrew loves Star Trek whereas Andrew thinks it's too utopian.

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Andrew Spooner in the Cosmic Shed.

Andrew joined Andrew in the shed and even brought his guitar with him. You'll have to listen to find out why...

show notes

Andrew and Andrew discuss the Microsoft Hololens, Ready Player One and The Culture Series

 

 

Door Six - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

Door Six - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 6, 2018

It's time to open Door 6 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. All you need to do it press play above and let the episode reveal all. In this episode, you will hear about life in our solar system from somebody who knows a lot about it. We won't reveal their identity until further down this page so you can retain the surprise of the Advent Calendar door opening by pressing play and listening now.

We'll fill this space with some words to make that identity appear further down the page. Sorry if your page is still too long but we can't fill the whole thing with meaningless words like this.

Anyway, here is a picture of the ExoMars 2020 Rover prototype to further push the identity down the page.


There's no grass on Mars and no buildings, yet but ExoMars will look for signs of life there in 2020

Behind Door 6 is Dr Louisa Preston, a UK Space Agency Aurora Research Fellow, and an astrobiologist, planetary geologist and author based at Birkbeck, University of London. Louisa works in environments across Planet Earth, where life is able to survive our planet’s most extreme conditions, using them as blueprints for possible extra-terrestrial life forms and habitats and has worked on projects for NASA and the Canadian, European and UK Space Agencies.


Dr Louisa Preston delivering a TED talk.

Louisa and Andrew chat about Mars Insight but quickly move onto ExoMars, ESA's 2020 rover for which Louisa is part of the Science Team for the PanCam instrument onboard.

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Andrew often wears ESA T-shirts...

Louisa is a lifelong scifi fan so the chat obviously heads that way too including Lost in Space and Star Trek. Louisa is the author of the wonderful book Goldilocks and the Waterbears and there can be few better presents for the space/science/scifi loving friend of yours to open on December 25th...or any other day for that matter.

Join us tomorrow for Day 7 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar or go back to yesterday and (SPOILER) hear our chat with Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica.

show notes

You can hear more from Louisa Preston here, here and here.