Hire me!

astronomy, BIS, communication, science, science communication, SGAC, space exploration, UKSEDS, UNAWE

Hello there!

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or my blog, you may already know a bit about me and my activities. I’m currently looking out for possible writing opportunities in science, physics and astronomy. If you’ve reached here and you’re someone looking for pitches, I’d be interested in the types of stories you have the most urgent need to fill!

My name is Ryan Laird, a science communicator from the UK and active #spacetweep. Since the start of January, I have been working as a Science Communication Intern at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) — the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. Based in Garching near Munich, Germany, I am working in ESO’s ePOD (education and Public Outreach Department) with a team of professional science communicators for the preparation of ESO, European Space Agency (ESA)/Hubble Space Telescope and International Astronomical Union (IAU) news and photo releases, publications, web pages, video scripts, exhibition panels and other public communication products. In addition, I have been actively supporting communication regarding the ESO Ultra HD expedition and am a ghostwriter for the UHD blog. I’ve become used to the fast pace dynamic and accuracy as required in this role.

I am a recent Graduate of the International Space University (ISU)‘s Space Studies Programme 2013 (SSP13), where I received generous support from the UK Space Agency and ESA. I am also a graduate of the University of Leicester, UK where obtained the degree of Physics with Astrophysics MPhys (Hons).

I have cherished many different opportunities to apply my skills and knowledge in a variety of areas including UKSEDS, Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), Universe Awareness (UNAWE), ESO and the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), among industry experts, university departments and other research organisations. I have also been actively involved in research and academia, having co-authored in the journal Nature — Snodgrass, C. et al., Nature, 467, 814-816 (2010), among others, gaining experience in the planetary sciences while researching Jupiter Family Comets.

I recently helped support the UNAWE International Office in Leiden, Netherlands where my main role was to expand the concept of Space Scoop (astronomy news for kids) to a diverse range of media platforms and syndicate the content. Here I investigated the best way to improve the syndication and distribution of science content produced for and by children to mainstream children’s media. I also wrote a number of Space Scoop articles and reviews of space content for kids.

Last year I also supported SGAC at their office in Vienna, Austria at the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI). There I supported SGAC’s network of over 4000 members across more than 90 countries. In this capacity, I helped organise the Space Generation Fusion Forum, preparing and editing the SGAC Annual Report, supporting general operations, web content and administration.

I also regularly write for the British Interplanetary Society‘s magazine, Spaceflight and as Vice Chair (formerly Secretary), I prepare content for UKSEDS‘ media. In addition, I maintain my own website here at rjmlaird.co.uk where I write some of my own musings in a blog, along with some space news and is where you can find additional information about me and my work.

Together my experiences have provided a me with a great range of expertise, which I’d be keen to use in a capacity to further promote astronomy, space and physics to a much wider audience — subjects very close to my heart. To further acquaint you with the specifics of my background you can view my CV from my website here (also downloadable as a .pdf and viewable on LinkedIn), along with my activities and publications which show some of my writing samples.

Also View Ryan Laird's profile on LinkedIn is where you can see some recommendations on my work. Most recently my Head of Department  (ePOD) here at ESO, Lars Lindberg Christensen, wrote me a reference downloadable here as .pdf. I am happy to provide further references if needed.

Do please get in touch if you know of or have any opportunities available.

Report: National Student Space Conference 2014

astronomy, human spaceflight, ISU, science, science communication, SGAC, UKSEDS


On 1st and 2nd March, space enthusiasts descended on the University of Leicester for the UKSEDS National Student Space Conference 2014. Aimed at UK students, each year the conference is a key opportunity to meet and network with a wide range of people in the space sector from academia to industry, across multiple disciplines. It is also a great time for students from UKSEDS’ various branches to meet together in one place and discuss their activities. This year the event was in its 26th year.

The conference was a real sell-out once again with over 250 delegates* from many UKSEDS branches spanning the width and breadth of the country — from Edinburgh to Kent to Southampton, Exeter, Manchester and Strathclyde. We were also happy to welcome our international friends at SEDS-USA and EUROAVIA once again. We had a great range of talks throughout the weekend from spaceplanes to cubesats, ISS, outreach and education, space biomedicine, astronomy, Mars and beyond.

Highlights included a talk by British ESA Astronaut Major Tim Peake who Skyped in from Houston to talk about his mission alongside the outreach components of his mission, along with Jeremy Curtis (Head of Education and Outreach, UK Space Agency) (See featured image**). There was a good chance of a Q&A and for delegates to engage with Tim. He revealed how his mission is being prepared and how his food and drinks will be sent up in advance, sharing his love of Yorkshire Tea. Sheffield SEDS (ShefSEDS) tweeted this, amusingly re-tweeted and replied to by Yorkshire Tea:

It was great to see Tim enjoyed all the questions from the audience.

Our Saturday keynote included Prof. Richard Brown from the Centre for Future Air-Space Transportation Technology, University of Strathclyde who gave a very inspiring talk on ‘Shock Waves and the Design of Future Spacecraft’.

Following this, delegates were invited to a networking reception, kindly sponsored by Reaction Engines Ltd. After which, delegates could attend the UKSEDS social and enjoy a tasty buffet meal and mingle with other delegates.

Sunday morning started with Dr David Parker (CEO, UK Space Agency) who spoke about the latest developments on UK Space activities.

CEO of UK Space Agency, Dr David Parker addressing NSSC2014. Credit: Prof. Chris Welch

Credit: Telespazio Vega DE

Throughout the weekend Telespazio Vega Deutschland demonstrated their Satellite Operations Training simulator, allowing delegates to simulate real in-­orbit satellite operations throughout the conference.

The conference would not have been possible without the kind sponsorship of Reaction Engines, Telespazio VEGA Deutschland, UK Space Agency, HE Space, Printech Circuit Laboratories, Sapienza Consulting, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Royal Aeronautical Society, Serco Group, AstroGnome, International Space University, RAL Space, and Avanti Communications Group plc, and the support of the British Interplanetary Society, ESERO-UK, European Southern Observatory (ESO), ESA Education Office, AstRoSoc Leicester, University of Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy, Leicester Astronomical Society and EUROAVIA.

Many thanks also to all our wonderful speakers throughout the conference. Presentations will be made available on our conference site at: ukseds.org/nssc2014

If you have any photos from NSSC2014, please share them with us at pr@ukseds.org.

See you in 2015!

*figure includes all exhibitors, speakers and volunteers.
**Featured image: British ESA Astronaut, Tim Peake addressing NSSC2014. Credit: Jane MacArthur
Written by Ryan Laird for UKSEDS.

National Student Space Conference 2014


I am pleased to be co-organising the UKSEDS National Student Space Conference, which will be held at the University of Leicester on 1-2 March.

We have just released our second press release, which you can view here.

Registration is now open and we are pleased to announce Reaction Engines Ltd. as a Gold Sponsor. Further details about the conference will be announced in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

World Space Week – Call for Action!

astronomy, BIS, science, space exploration, UKSEDS, UNCOPUOS

“The General Assembly declares 4 to 10 October World Space Week to celebrate each year at the international level the contributions of space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition”

UN General Assembly resolution, 6 December 1999

Register your event!

wsw-logo-color-wsw-text_dates_white_backgroundUKSEDS are working with the British Interplanetary Society who are UK National Coordinators for World Space Week.

Holding a space event between 4-10 October? Register your events here!
For further information: worldspaceweek@bis-space.com

Mars_Earth_small“Exploring Mars, Discovering Earth”

World Space Week 2013 is all about what many consider the Next Frontier: the planet Mars. Humanity is quickly conquering this new frontier. Mars Curiosity is the largest rover ever brought to another planet, discovering new features of the Red Planet every day. Read here.

Mars-Picture-for-WSW-2013-300x117Call for Action!

Help us make this the biggest World Space Week yet!

What better way to start the week than with the Mars Society UK annual conference, on Sat 5th October at the National Space Centre, Leicester?

bis80The British Interplanetary Society South West Group will be holding lectures at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute.

The British Interplanetary Society will be finishing World Space Week in style by celebrating its 80th birthday on Saturday 12th October in Liverpool.

Run your own event! There are lots of great FREE resources to inspire you and help your ideas take off.

Posted also to ukseds.org (as Secretary)

Visit to Surrey Satellites Technology Ltd (SSTL)

travel, UKSEDS
Picture of SSTL logo.

Picture of SSTL logo at front of Kepler Building, SSTL.

Soon after my return to the UK, I was pleased to attend a tour of Surrey Satellites Technology Ltd (SSTL). Members of UKSEDS met at the site in Guildford, Surrey on 26th April.

Unfortunately we were not permitted to take photos inside the buildings themselves.

We were given an overview of the company, along with SSTL’s missions – those launched, those and those currently in development and manufacture, as well as careers at SSTL including their Graduate Development Programme.

We were told of the news of STRaND-1 – the world’s first “phonesat”; a nanosatellite carrying a smartphone (Google Nexus One) built in engineer’s free time and using advanced commercial off-the-shelf components.

Many images taken by satellites built by the company were on display throughout the buildings, many which can be viewed here. For example, NigeriaSAT-2 took a rather “familiar” image of the East-End of London, below.

Acquired by NigeriaSat-2 a few days before the Olympics 2012, this image shows the East End of the city of London including the Olympic Park  to the North of the Thames, London City Airport, London's flood defence - the Thames Barrier, and the Millenium Dome. Credit: NASRDA

Acquired by NigeriaSat-2 a few days before the Olympics 2012, this image shows the East End of the city of London including the Olympic Park to the North of the Thames, London City Airport, London’s flood defence – the Thames Barrier, and the Millenium Dome.
Credit: NASRDA

We were given a tour around Tycho House which accommodates the company’s mission analysis, engineering, project management, operations and administration teams. We could see their Mission Control Centre where in-orbit operations are performed.

Adjacent to the Tycho Building is the Kepler Building, SSTL’s technical facility which houses SSTL’s cleanrooms, test facilities and laboratories. Unfortunately the first Galileo satellite, just ready for transport to ESA was hidden away from public view on our visit.


UKSEDS members outside SSTL

Update 16 May 2013: “First New Galileo Satellite Arrives At ESA for Space Testing” http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Navigation/First_new_Galileo_satellite_arrives_at_ESA_for_space_testing

UKSEDS National Student Space Conference 2013 & 25th Anniversary

UKSEDS National Student Space Conference, Bristol 2013 logo.

UKSEDS National Student Space Conference, Bristol 2013 logo.

On 23rd and 24th February, space enthusiasts descended on the University of Bristol, UK for the UKSEDS National Student Space Conference 2013. For UK students, each year this is a key opportunity to meet and network with a wide range of people in the space sector from academia to industry, across multiple disciplines. It is also a great time for students from UKSEDS’ various branches to meet together in one place and discuss their activities. This year marked our 25th anniversary.


Suzanne Dalgleish and friends at The Space Society of London (Ontario), Canada share in celebrating UKSEDS 25th anniversary

With over 200 delegates and with over 17 UKSEDS branches represented, the conference was a real sell out! On this special occasion, we were very pleased to also be joined by international representatives from SEDS-USA, CySEDS (Cyprus SEDS), EUROAVIA, DARE, Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) and SpaceGAMBIT.  Along with many UKSEDS alumni joining us in this celebration, this was one truly international event.

Introductory video by co-founders of SEDS and ISU, Bob Richards and Peter Diamandis

Introductory video by co-founders of SEDS and ISU, Bob Richards and Peter Diamandis

Saturday morning began with an introductory video by co-founders of SEDS and ISU, Bob Richards and Peter Diamandis. Delegates were later also reminded of the worldwide network of SEDS with a special greeting from SEDS India.

UKSEDS committee are pleased we could offer a wide variety of talks and exhibits, from space policy and law, to astronomy, aerospace and planetary science and technology. We were particularly delighted to welcome keynotes Dr Ralph Lorenz (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, USA) and Alan Bond (Reaction Engines Ltd). It was set to be a fun-packed weekend.

SEDS-India wish UKSEDS a “happy anniversary"

SEDS-India wish UKSEDS a “happy anniversary”

We are pleased that the CEO of the UK Space Agency, Dr David Parker, along with Prof. Chris Welch (alumnus of UKSEDS) from the International Space University were able to kick-start talks for our 25th anniversary conference.

UKSEDS were very pleased to be joined by many of its alumni, some of whom spoke for us, including: Prof. Chris Welch from the International Space University (ISU); Dr Jason Hatton (ESA), the founding Vice-Chair of UKSEDS who spoke about his work on the ELIPS programme; and Dr Mark Bentley (Space Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences), who talked about his work with the Rosetta spacecraft. This made our 25th anniversary conference an all-the-more special occasion.

“As for the genesis, I believe the impetus originated from the general space evangelism instilled in the first one or two groups of British alumni of ISU, maybe Jane Deakin, Julia Hunter, etc. I recall that SEDS in the USA had been started by Peter Diamandis, who was also the founder of ISU. It wasn’t immediately obvious to everyone they discussed the idea with that such an organization was needed (given that some of us were in the BIS and RAeS already) but there was a wish to have a perhaps more energetic, student-driven initiative.” — Dr Ralph D. Lorenz, Publications UKSEDS (Founding) Committee 1988-89, now at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, USA.


Keynote speaker, Dr Ralph Lorenz, talks about “Exploring Titan”.

We were taken aback that Dr Ralph Lorenz could join us all the way from the USA. Dr Lorenz reviewed his involvement in the Huygens probe and talked about the ongoing discoveries about Titan’s surface and atmosphere in his talk “Exploring Titan”.

Following Dr Lorenz’s keynote, delegates were treated to a surprise video call by Italian ESA Astronaut, Paolo Nespoli, who kindly gave his time for us to recall his memories of his visit during UKSEDS’ Conference in 2000 in Manchester as well as his experiences on the International Space Station.

Surprise Skype call with Italian ESA Astronaut, Paolo Nespoli.

Surprise Skype call with Italian ESA Astronaut, Paolo Nespoli. Credit: University of Leicester AstRoSoc.

On Sunday, we were pleased to welcome Alan Bond, Founding Director and Chief Designer at Reaction Engines Ltd. Mr Bond talked about “The SKYLON Development Programme”. In his talk, he gave a summary of the ongoing development of the SABRE engine (which he invented) and the SKYLON vehicle design for which the engine is intended.

Throughout the weekend, there was a wide range of talks on offer, including talks from HE Space and Royal Aeronautical Society giving advice for budding space engineers and scientists. The conference was a great opportunity for students in particular, to mingle with the key leaders of the space industry. Delegates were able to network between breaks in the exhibition hall, which included figures such as: Astrium Ltd, Royal Astronomical Society, Royal Aeronautical Society, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and UK Space Agency. Red Bull kindly brought along free Red Bull for delegates.

SKYLON model in the exhibition hall.

SKYLON model in the exhibition hall. Credit: Damian Rumble.

A key period of networking was the allotted wine/networking reception kindly sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society. This included a raffle with prizes, the highlights which included a signed SKYLON model by Alan Bond; a signed copy of the book “Titan Unveiled” by keynote speaker, Dr Ralph Lorenz; and a signed copy of the book “A Down to Earth Guide to the Cosmos” by “The People’s Astronomer”, Mark Thompson.

"Under the Stars" social venue by Bristol Harbour. Credit: Marco Marsh.

“Under the Stars” social venue by Bristol Harbour. Credit: Marco Marsh.

Following the reception on Saturday evening was UKSEDS’ 25th Birthday Social on a boat in Bristol Harbour, “Under The Stars”. This was another sell-out event. This included a tasty buffet menu. UKSEDS were delighted the venue management could offer us a range of “space-themed” cocktails from Laika, Sputnik, Cosmonaut (variation on Cosmopolitan), Sex Under the Stars and Pluto. To make this even more of a space party, all night we had a range of space-themed music which was selected from a number of our delegates prior to the event. Music ranged from the likes of David Bowie, Elton John, REM and The Killers to Muse and Orbital.

Freya Aldred and Susannah Jones (Exeter PhySoc) talking about plans for a radio astronomy project.

Freya Aldred and Susannah Jones (Exeter PhySoc) talking about plans for a radio astronomy project. Credit: Damian Rumble.

During the conference, UKSEDS was delighted to give a Project Update to its members. This included the status of REXUS: PoleCATS and StrathSEDS StrathSat-R experiment. Bristol SEDS gave updates on their Picosat and Rockoon projects. Members were also updated on the GLOBE at Night campaign to raise the public awareness of the impact of light pollution, by inviting everyone to measure their night sky brightness.  Members were also invited to take part in UKSEDS’ asteroid searches. The next PAN-STARRS campaign will run from 10th March – 14th April; a real chance to discover Main Belt asteroids as well as Near-Earth Objects such as 2012 DA14. UKSEDS also announced plans to build a 5m radio telescope at Norman Lockyer Observatory as part of a radio project. We were particularly pleased with the excitement surrounding a High Altitude Ballooning and Rocketry project. We look forward to developments over the coming year.

UKSEDS also ran an Outreach Training workshop. The hands-on session focused on teaching members how to do outreach activities with UKSEDS, identifying meteorites, craters and spacecraft materials, and constructing a DIY weather balloon. The session aimed at those who want to be a part of our outreach team and support stalls at the upcoming Big Bang Fair, Oxford Science Festival and Cheltenham Science Festival.

UKSEDS members at Farnborough International Airshow, one of the highlight events presented at the AGM.

UKSEDS members with ESA astronauts Tim Peake and Paolo Nespoli at Farnborough International Airshow, one of the highlight events presented at the AGM.

UKSEDS also held its Annual General Meeting on the Sunday during the conference. Our Chair, Damian Rumble, gave an update of our activities over the past year, including Farnborough International Airshow, our joint World Space Week event with the British Interplanetary Society and the Sir Arthur Clarke Awards. This was also a chance for members to share their thoughts on the past year, provide motions and vote for the next committee. We were delighted with the turnout for the meeting and we had good competition for the roles in committee. We are excited with the selection of this coming year’s committee and look forward to the year ahead.

UKSEDS was glad it was able to subsidise a number of its members to attend from further afield such as branches in Scotland, Sheffield and Kent. We hope we can support more of our members next year. We were very pleased with the turnout across all our branches up and down the country and thank everyone for their support. We were pleasantly surprised to welcome such a large number of delegates from overseas. We hope to see a greater participation from them also, in the 2014 conference as we aim to work more closely with our international partners.

UKSEDS are delighted with the success of our 25th anniversary conference. Many thanks go to our sponsors: Astrium Ltd, the Royal Astronomical Society, Reaction Engines, SciSys, HE Space, Royal Aeronautical Society, ESERO, Serco and Avanti. Without their sponsorship this event would not have been possible. We are also thankful to the support of Bristol Alumni Foundation, University of Bristol, Bristol CHAOS, British Interplanetary Society, International Space University, Space Generation Advisory Council and EUROAVIA.

Thank you to all our delegates, sponsors and speakers for making this conference such a great event. See you in 2014!!!

Written by Ryan Laird, UKSEDS Secretary 2012/13, 2013/14, UK National Point of Contact, Space Generation Advisory Council.
secretary@ukseds.org, @rjmlaird
Did you take any photos at our conference? Please send us your best photos to media@ukseds.org and we can add them to our archive (with acknowledgement!)

Sir Patrick’s Picnic

astronomy, BIS, SGAC, travel, UKSEDS

It was a great privilege once again to attend Sir Patrick Moore’s picnic at his home at Farthings in Selsey, West Sussex, along with the British Interplanetary Society.

The entrance gate to Sir Patrick Moore’s home.

For my international friends and audience, Sir Patrick Moore is a British amateur astronomer who has attained prominent status in astronomy as a writer, researcher, radio commentator and television presenter, and is credited as having done more than any other person to raise the profile of astronomy among the British general public.

Left to right: Me, Jane MacArthur (fellow SGAC UK NPoC), Richard Painter (UKSEDS Project Officer), Nancy Hine (UKSEDS Vice-Chair). Below: Sir Patrick Moore.

Many thanks go to the British Interplanetary Society for organising this. It was fantastic the weather held off and was particularly warm – great weather for a picnic.

See my complete photos on the UKSEDS Facebook page, here.