Meet the Team: Nick Howes

Nick Howes – Our UK Astronomer and space GuruNick Howes and Charlie Duke.

by Robert Brand
That is Nick Howes (r) in the picture at right with Charlie Duke of Apollo 16 fame (l). I first met Nick At Spacefest several years ago and we “clicked” straight away. We have been great friends since and have bumped into each other at space conferences in Tucson Ar; Pasadena Ca and London. Space is very big, but the space sector here on earth is pretty small. Hey Nick played a wicked joke while I was talking to Buzz Aldrin, with the joke being on Buzz. I realised that if nothing else we would have fun together and space was the cement. Well there is more to the relationship than jokes. We are now into the serious stuff.
Nick is Project ThunderStruck’s UK based guy with a super big knowledge of the rocks in our solar system. He is our key guy on knowing were to go and how to get there – not the navigation, but definitely the location.  When we strap an ion engine on to the rear end of ThunderStruck, Nick is the guy that is there to guide our chief Navigator. He is soon to be announced so stay tuned. Back to Nick – this is Nick’s bio:

Nick Howes:

 Nick Howes is an amateur astronomer and formerly deputy director of the Kielder Observatory, as well as a freelance science writer whose work has included the European Space Agencies Science Portal and NASA Blueshift.

A Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, he has written for Astronomy U.S, Sky and Telescope, Popular Astronomy and many other publications and websites, including major work for the world’s largest telescope project, the Square Kilometre Array. A speaker at international conferences, he has shared the stage with Apollo astronauts, NASA MSL teams and some of the world’s leading experts in comet research as an internationally known speaker.

His images of comets and asteroids have graced the NASA home pages on multiple occasions. and have won awards and been featured by the like of National Geographic,The Times, Universe Today,, The Financial Times and Discovery Channel Science as well as multiple books and peer reviewed journals.

For 5 years, Nick was the Pro-Am Programme Manager for the twin 2-metre Faulkes Telescopes, one based in Siding Spring, Australia, where he has and is coordinating projects with the European Space Agency on their near Earth object program, ESO on massive star cluster observations and NASA’s comet observing campaigns as well as projects with the U.S based Space Science and Planetary Science Institutes monitoring a range of comets and their activity.

With the Planetary Science Institute and Space Science Institute teams Nick works on observations he makes with the 2-metre Liverpool Telescope in La Palma on cometary science relating to their morphology, and also controutes data to the Italian CARA comet research group on dust measurements for cometary bodies.

Nick has over 400 NASA ADS citations for observational work on comets and asteroids, and is in the Guinness Book of records for leading a team of UK Astronomers in creating the World’s largest image composite of the Moon taken by ground based observations.

A STEM ambassador in the UK, he has appeared on both BBC television and radio and he regularly features as the official astronomer for the BBC in the South West of England. He is also the tour leader for astronomy holidays in Africa and Oman and was technical consultant to the GEO Observatory in Andalucia, Spain.
If that is not enough for you, then I don’t know what is. Again, welcome aboard Nick and I look forward to seeing you a Spacefest next year in Tucson Arizona, USA.
Below is a photo of me with Nick Howes in 2012, when he played a wicked joke on  Buzz Aldrin atSpacefest:

Robert Brand and Nick Howes at Spacefest 2012

Robert Brand and Nick Howes at Spacefest 2012

Meet the Team: David Galea

David GaleaDavid Galea – An Australian Rocket Man and Much More

by Robert Brand

I have know David for many years and it was a pleasure to invite him to be part of Team ThunderStruck’s core group.

David also works with me on Team Stellar – a Google Lunar X-Prize Team. There, he is head of the rocketry Division. David is here for the “Long Haul”. That is building the entire spacecraft. That has always been an option since the first time I spoke with him. He is located in Melbourne Australia – a one day drive from Sydney. None the less, it is very likely that we will meet in the the open parts of NSW when we launch high altitude balloons to test the ThunderStruck components.

As an Adviser to ThunderStruck, he will not be “hands on”, but maybe one day….

Biography for David Galea

David has devoted his entire life to the exploration of science and technology. Since his childhood, David would study the universe through books and telescopes. In college, David built the first school computer in 1982. He then used that same computer to track and communicate telemetry with various satellites to win an award in the Science Talent Search.

His career started when he began working for the largest communications company in Australia (Telstra) to design, build and test what was to be called “The Internet”. He has expertise in Risk Management, Green Data Centers, Information Technology, Project Management, Renewable Energy, Technical Design and Problem Solving.

Wanting to be even more involved in space science, David joined ASRI (Australian Space Research Institute) to take part in the deployment of large rockets from Central Australia in Woomera.

David spent several years with various universities in a consultative role to guide and assist with science projects, I.T. growth and risk mitigation issues.

David has also taken the role as a Science Teacher at a Government Secondary College in Victoria, Australia. David believes that S.T.E.M. (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) needs a push in local schools and has initiated activities such as Rocketry, Moonbots Robotics Challenge and Formula 1 in Schools as part of the curriculum.

David did not teach for the Income, rather, he taught for the Outcome. The outcome of his students is paramount. To inspire them to explore what was once impossible and expand their imaginations for their future. David’s current role is a Business Performance Analyst for a large global security company in Victoria, Australia.

David and Team ThunderStruck

Simply put, anything to do with rockets will rely on David Galea’s expertise. He will also assist with automation and robotics. I look forward to seeing David in our aerospace team for many years to come and as a shareholder and stakeholder in the company.



Meet the Project ThunderStruck Team

team_medium1The Project ThunderStruck Team

by Robert Brand

Over the next week I will introduce you to the entire team that makes up Project ThunderStruck. Remember that There are two parts to ThunderStruck the test phases and the total Spacecraft. Similarly, there are two types of people that we will introduce to you. Those that are helping with the test phases and those that are part of the core team, here for the “long haul” to build a spacecraft.

We are moving aggressively to ensure that we stay on our chosen time frame and we are also working for world coverage and support. I quite like the small image at top right as the team is lifting the direction from flat to “UP”- an obvious direction for a spacecraft.

The team is made up of people mainly from Australia, but we have invitations out to people from other countries that will be dedicated to making the project a global success.

Similarly we also have companies, universities and even government bodies supporting part or all of the project.

We will be letting you know the big picture, because it will be impossible to build this spacecraft without solid support from those that have the expertise in the relevant field. Similarly we may end up using old and outdated technology without the proper guidance and support.

Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF)

For instance, today I spoke with the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF). Please note that before I go any further, there is no agreement or other offers associated with this first contact, but the contact is both important and mission critical in my opinion. The ANFF says on their website:


ANFF logoEstablished under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), ANFF provides researchers and industry with access to state-of-the-art fabrication capabilities through a network of 8 nodes including 21 institutions throughout Australia. The ANFF facility portfolio consists of over 500 instruments with projects valued at over $200m. ANFF nodes draw on existing infrastructure and expertise providing a critical mass of capabilities in their respective specialisations. Each node provides their facilities on an open access basis enabling researchers to engage in interdisciplinary research across the following fields:

  • Micro and Nano electronics
  • Microfluidics and MEMS
  • Bio-nano applications
  • Advanced materials
  • Sensors and medical devices
  • Photonics

ANFF provides services for both academic researchers and industry. Researchers are able to either gain direct access to facilities under expert guidance, contract for specialised products to be made or undertake contract research projects.

I believe that this group of laboratories, clean rooms, test centres, etc are an invaluable facility for the future of space. Under local staff guidance, it is even possible to be trained in the use of some specialised equipment and be able to use it with your own staff. Naturally there is a cost with this, but imagine if you needed to build, buy of create this yourself.

A later phone call to the University of NSW Aerospace Dept was also greeted with a strong welcome. There was a lot discussed and I have been invited to speak at an upcoming event on April 1st that is all about CubesSats. I mentioned John Moody in a recent post. He is building an Australian Spaceport. I understand that he is also speaking on the day.

As momentum builds so do the spin-offs. other groups are finding the project reigniting their stalled projects. Project ThunderStruck has become a catalyst in the space sector. Universities are looking for places for their students as interns. It is a rare thing to find intern work in the space sector here in Australia. Possible Joint Ventures are already on the table and we are considering our next steps.

ThunderStruck is about to become again embedded in the Australian mindset. First as a hit for ACDC and now as an Australian Spacecraft. Fly me to the moon maybe another song that we try out once we build the commercial version of the craft. Not to land, but to swing around the moon and on to Mars. Now that would be a nice shakedown cruise to check out the craft!