Tag Archives: holidays

Wonderful Things: Vickers Vimy

Sometimes it is important to look at some of the older inventions on display in the Science Museum in order to understand how technology has developed and contributed to where we are now.    

One such invention isn’t even 100 years old but technology has moved on so fast that it looks archaic!  This is the Vickers Vimy Mk.IV.  For those of you who aren’t experts in aviation, and I count myself in that category too, this is an aeroplane. 

The Vickers Vimy, 1919

The wonderful Vickers Vimy, 1919. Image SSPL

However, it’s not just any aeroplane, in 1919 it became the first one to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean.  Before this, the only way to get across the Atlantic was by boat. All this changed after two men, Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten-Brown, achieved the flight of 1900 miles in 16 hours.  It is amazing to think that this was just 16 years after the Wright brothers made the first ever sustained flight, which lasted just 12 seconds and covered 37 metres.

The Vickers Vimy flight began on the 14th June in St John’s, Newfoundland. It’s journey was fraught with peril.  The pilots faced storms, snow and ice … At one point Alcock became so disorientated in the dense clouds that they began to spiral out of control!  Fortunately, they recovered just before crashing into the water.  They arrived the following morning in Clifden, County Galway and promptly crash-landed in a bog (probably a bit of a relief). They received a hero’s welcome and were both knighted by George V.      

The Vickers Vimy wasn’t built for this purpose, though; it was originally intended as a heavy bomber during the First World War.  However, Alcock and Whitten-Brown recognised the potential these planes had for long distance flying. They had the best design and Rolls Royce engines, which were the most reliable.

In fact, this was the beginning of a travel revolution, which was to continue throughout the 20th Century.  These days, flying abroad is very common but we are now starting to see the impact that this is having on our environment.  Not only in terms of the energy being used but also the level of noise pollution and changes in our air quality.  In 2010, Heathrow alone recorded nearly 449,220 flights taking off from their runways.  That is 1,231 flights a day! 

Although air travel contributes less to greenhouse gas emissions than say, factories, we do need to address the environmental issues around flying.

  • What suggestions do your students have for how we can reduce the environmental impact of these flights? 
  • The Government has been discussing the possibility of charging a Green Tax in response to these issues (you can read more about green taxes here).  How would you feel about paying a Green Tax when you fly?
  • So…  Would you prefer to holiday 4 times a year by train, or once a year by plane?

You can find the Vickers Vimy aeroplane in the Flight gallery on the third floor of the Museum. 

-Kate Davis

Holidays in Space?

A trip on a Virgin Galactic sub orbital space flight next year will set you back at least $200,000 …..we can all dream! But will these trips ever be affordable and should public money be used to fund them?

Zero gravity

Zero gravity

A report published this week recommends that Britain invests more money in the space industry in order to take advantage of key market opportunities including space tourism.

Take advantage of the current media coverage to run a discussion lesson on space tourism.

Some ideas to get your students thinking…

  • How far could a space tourism trip take you?
  • How long will it be before we can book a hotel on the moon or holiday on Mars?
  • How much risk are the public willing to take? What if there was an accident?
  • Do you need to be as fit as an astronaut to go?
  • What is the carbon footprint of a trip into space?

The increasing public interest in space travel may well be of a benefit to scientists doing research by making extra funding available. However, it could also be a hindrance if there was an increase in health and safety scares linked to space exploration or  if funding gets diverted away from research and invested in space tourism instead.

To get your class discussing this topic you could get groups to each research a different area and follow this with mixed group discussions using the marketplace format. Run a search on space tourism on the web to find multiple news articles and websites with both sides to the story.

As part of the Exploring the Universe Theme Day at the Science Museum on 17th May the Talk Science team will be running a discussion activity on Space tourism for secondary school groups. To book or for more information give our friendly bookings team a call on 020 7942 4777.