Prof. Chris Welch

Chris is Professor of Space Engineering, Head of the Space Payloads Laboratory and Director of the MSc in Space Studies at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France which is dedicated to the discovery, research, and development of outer space and its applications for peaceful purposes, through international and interdisciplinary education and research.

Chris is a former Vice-President of the International Astronautical Federation, an academician in the International Academy of Astronautics and a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, the Royal Aeronautical Society and the Royal Astronomical Society.

He is also a board member of the World Space Week Association and an advisor to Space Hero, the Moon Village Association and the Initiative for Interstellar Studies.

Although technically a physicist-turned-engineer, Chris considers himself a ‘spaceist’, interested in all aspects of space. His main interests are in space systems and space exploration, all from an interdisciplinary perspective. A link to his many publications is below. 

Chris is well-recognised for his space education and outreach activities, receiving the 2009 Sir Arthur Clarke Award for Achievement in Space Education. Chris also has extensive media experience, having given more than 300 live interviews, and has advised several media companies on space-related television shows and films. 

Chris was in the final twenty-five finalists for the 1991 Project Juno mission to the Russian Mir space station and still hopes to get to space. He has written what he believes to be the first-ever paper on the design of extraterrestrial gardens and has a poem on the International Space Station which has now orbited the Earth for more than 1000 days.

Prof. Chris Welch publications

TALKS & LECTURES (for all ages)

1. Why Space?
This talk looks at why we travel into space. Starting with 20th-century space history (the work of Tsiolkovsky, Goddard, Oberth and von Braun), it then covers the Space Race (Sputnik, Gagarin, Mercury, Gemini and Apollo) and after (Skylab, Space Shuttle, Space Station, New Space) before addressing a range of possible reasons for exploring and utilising space such as science, politics and culture.

2. Space – What is It Good For? 
This talk looks at the benefits of space to all of us, focussing on how it inspires us, how it helps us understand our planet, how it makes our lives better, its economic benefits and how it benefits our long-term survival.  

3. Beauty in The Void
Space is normally thought of as the domain of scientists and engineers. However, since the start of the space age, there have been artists who have been fascinated by space and the cosmos and who have sent their works into space. This talk looks at how and why they have done this, giving examples7of art that has been sent into space.

4. Beyond Earth Orbit
Being in orbit, it has been said, is half-way to being anywhere in space. But how can we travel beyond this to the Moon, Mars and beyond? This talk looks at the challenges of deep space flight and some possible ways to address them.

5. Black Sky Thinking
Historically, space has been so been the preserve of governments and large companies. Now, however, this is changing. This talk looks at how, by using science and technology in new ways, entrepreneurs are using space to make money.

6. Everyone can be an Astronaut
Yuri Gagarin was the first human to enter space in 196. Since then almost 600 other astronauts – mostly space agency employees – have flown. There have been a small number of private spaceflight participants (sometimes called ‘space tourists’), though, and this looks likely to increase in the coming decade. This talk looks at the history of private spaceflight and the upcoming opportunities for us all to fly to space and become astronauts.

7. The Taste of Ambrosia – Food in Space
In Greek mythology, ambrosia was the food of the gods, giving them their immortality. The food that astronauts eat does not do that, but it is extremely important to maintaining their happiness and well-being during their long voyages. This talk looks at how space food has developed from paste-in-a-tube to the current day, which foods are preferred in space – and why, and how astronauts prepare and eat their food in zero-g.

8. Looking Outwards
This lecture looks at the space astronomy – using robotic, space-based telescopes – to explore the cosmos. The reason for getting outside of the Earth’s atmosphere are explained and then the most exciting space astronomy missions and their exciting discoveries are described before focusing on future missions.

9. Orbits 101
Everyone knows the word ‘orbit’, but how many people really know what an orbit is? Or what the different types of orbits are? Starting from the history of astronomy, this lecture explains both of these while also looking at how orbits can be used for different applications for everyone on Earth.

10. The Only Way Is Up
The first part of every space mission is taking off in a rocket. Once in space, other rockets are used to adjust spacecraft orbits and attitudes. This lecture describes the way rockets work and looks at the different types, eg. chemical, electrical, etc.

11. The Stars My Destination
Travelling to other stars is a popular idea in science-fiction. But just how difficult is it and how might we really do it? This lecture looks at the challenges of interstellar flight (distance, time, relativity) and some ways that these might possibly be addressed, e.g. suspended animation, worldships and self-replicating robots.

12. Wayfinding – the science and history of navigation *
Travel, whether it is for exploration, commerce or leisure, requires that we be able to navigate. This talk looks at how we have navigated and found our way, from our earliest days on land to crossing the seas and taking to the air, and some of the ways in which we have done it: dead-reckoning, using the Sun and stars, lodestones and compasses, lighthouses, maps and charts, radio navigation and satellite navigation.

13. Gazing at the Stars – The History and Development of Astronomy *
Since humanity’s earliest times, we have looked at the sky and tried to understand its meaning. This talk describes both how we have looked at the cosmos, e.g., with the naked eye, using telescopes and observatories and satellites and how we have explained it to ourselves, from the geocentric worldview of Aristotle’s time, though Copernicus and Galileo and their realisation that the Earth goes around the Sun, to the latest scientific findings about the cosmos.

14. The Life Cycle of Stars *
Stars have a life cycle of birth, death, and – in some cases – rebirth. This lecture describes this life cycle and how this has created all of the elements that make up the planets and ourselves as well as providing the energy that keeps (almost) all organisms on Earth alive.

15. The Sun and Space Weather *
The Sun is the star at the centre of our solar system that is the source of light and heat for life on Earth. Its age is around 4.6 billion years. As a magnetically active star, it has a great influence on ‘space weather’ throughout the Solar System with significant implications for the Earth and for space travellers. This lecture provides an overview of various aspects of the Sun, its variable nature and its effect on us.

* Requires extra preparation