Candidate Profile

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EXPERTISE
Astronomy & Space Science
Earth Sciences, Geology & Geography
Espionage, Intelligence & Spying
History - Military
Meteorology & Climatology
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE WITH:
BIOGRAPHY
British born, Dr David Baker has had a lifelong involvement with the NASA space programme, helping send men to the Moon in the 1960's, working to develop the re-usable Shuttle in the 1970's, helping countries around the world use space applications in their everyday lives during the 1980's, advising on space policy during the 1990's and lecturer and historian in the new century.

David has lived through, experienced, and participated in dramatic events throughout the last 50 years, including working at Mission Control during the fateful Apollo 13 mission, helping train astronauts for the motorised exploration of the lunar surface, flying in exotic research aircraft, etc. He is the only individual to have flown in the world’s biggest aircraft (as a member of the flight crew), the world’s fastest aircraft, the world’s highest flying aircraft and the world’s only commercial supersonic airliner, etc.

In addition to his science and aerospace background, David has worked for companies, corporations and government agencies in a variety of roles which have taken him to more than 50 countries, including the former Soviet Union to negotiate their position on international cooperation and in arms control. He regularly lectures on a wide variety of subjects including, in addition to the above, intelligence activities during the Cold War, the history of the two World Wars and on the Earth and its environment.

David went to University in the USA and joined NASA in Houston in the early 1960s to work on the Apollo Moon programme. As an Earth and planetary scientist, but with exploration in his heart, he took engineering degrees to help expand the work of astronauts on the Moon and later moved to Washington DC, where he advised NASA management and testified before congressional committees.

Dr Baker was made a voting member of the International Academy of Astronautics for his contributions to the space programme and spent many years living and working in the Far East and India using satellites to improve agricultural techniques, expand access to satellite-based education for dispersed communities and training people in the use of Earth images.

Separate from his work in aviation, space and science, David has had a lifelong interest in the origin of the modern world and has conducted several research projects examining the relationship between prehistoric sites such as Stonehenge and Avebury, examining the way these ancient structures represented a culture capable of reading the motion of the Moon and the Sun and predicting eclipses and seasonal changes, crucial to farming and the life of small communities long before the written word.

An award-winning author David has written more than 100 books, academic and popular, on many aspects of science, aviation, space, defence and astronomy but a passionate interest in political and industrial history has allowed him to research and write extensively in the development of the technologies and the politics that underpinned the Cold War.

David received the 1998 Rolls Royce Award for the best paper on propulsion that year and in 2005 the Sir Arthur Clarke Award for his work as Editor of Jane’s Space Directory. To date, David has written more than 3,000 articles and papers. He continues to serve as consultant, adviser, author and writer with numerous appearances on TV, radio programmes and film documentaries, having also served as adviser to Danny Boyle and other film producers.

Dr Baker is currently Editor of Spaceflight, the magazine of the British Interplanetary Society, the organisation for space science and engineering professionals and the interested enthusiast. Along with his wife Ann, David is a lifelong traveller, an uncompromising enthusiast for discovering new things and sharing information and loves, walking, music and film.

Below is a selection of David's books:


(Click image to see full size)
TALKS
SPACE RESEARCH AND EXPLORATION

1. Yuri Gagarin – the first Man in Space. How Russia’s space hero of the early 1960s became the first human to orbit the Earth and touched the hearts of people all across the world, inspiring generations of young people everywhere.

2. Neil Armstrong – from rocket planes to a Moon landing. An ordinary boy from Ohio grew up to love flying and became one of the few to fly rocket-powered research aircraft to the edge of space before joining NASA, surviving a near catastrophe in space to became the first person to walk on the Moon.

3. Missions to Mars – Exploring the Red Planet. People are fascinated by one of Earth’s celestial neighbours and wonder at the possibility of expeditions to explore its surface. But what is Mars really like, could we ever put humans there – is the film “The Martian” anywhere close to plausible reality?

4. Apollo 13 – Surviving an Explosion. In April 1970 three astronauts far from Earth suffered a near-catastrophic explosion aboard their Apollo spacecraft. Hear a personal account of what it was like to be in Mission Control and help nurse the crew back to a safe landing in the Pacific Ocean. How accurate was the film starring Tom Hanks?

5. The Space Age. Russia placed the first satellite in orbit in 1957, launching a new age of exploration beyond Earth. Twelve years later the Americans were the first to walk on the Moon. What have been the major accomplishments since then and how does it benefit us on Earth?

6. Building in Space. Between 1998 and 2011 an international group of countries built a 400 ton laboratory in space. Why did they do that? How long will it remain up there? And what’s it for?

7. What’s so important about our Moon? We now know that it if were not for the Moon we, as humans, would probably not be here. Find out why the Moon has allowed life to develop on Earth and speeded up the diversity of living things.

8. Our wonderful Earth. A tour of the planet from space with stunning views of Earth as seen by astronauts, revealing dramatic natural features and signs of human presence, as well as views which show damage to the environment.

9. Safety from satellites. How satellites in space guide, warn, support and provide safety for ships and passengers at sea. How they do that and who operates these unique “stars” in the sky.

10. Is there life out there? Seeking to answer the age-old question about the possibility of alien civilisations in space and whether we could make contact, using up-to-date information from space programmes around the world we examine the evidence.

11. NASA’s Space Shuttle. Between 1981 and 2011 NASA launched 135 Shuttle flights but what did they achieve. Why was the Shuttle built the way it was, and why was it abandoned after being so successful?

12. Spy Satellites. Since the early 1960s military satellites have been spying on countries around the world, sizing up their capabilities and observing developments that threaten security. Now, satellites can collect telephone conversations and “see” through cloud, day and night, helping track terrorists and police arms control agreements.

13. Gathering dust. How do astronauts go about exploring the Moon? From one of those who helped train Apollo Moon men, the detail on just how crewmen went about exploring our nearest celestial neighbour and how they were able to get so much information in so short a space of time.

14. Where Next? After Moon landings, the Shuttle and the International Space Station, NASA is building the world’s biggest rocket and a new spacecraft called Orion. Together they could set humans on the path to Mars. But how will that be achieved, and when?

EARTH AND ITS ENVIRONMENT

1. The Changing Climate. What do we really know about the Earth, its dramatic weather patterns and its changing climate cycles? An objective look at our planet and its dramatic history over time.

2. The Mighty Amazon. One of the world’s largest rivers provides fresh water life with sustaining energy that feeds the lives of people along its shoreline, but how did it originate, where does it really begin and what are the environmental threats it faces.

3. The Mediterranean Sea – an ocean in two parts. Since the dawn of civilisation, the Mediterranean has been a highway for communication, trade and sea warfare. It also supports a remarkable collection of diverse life. At one time a dry basin many times the size of the Grand Canyon, it is an ever-changing sea linking more than a dozen countries.

4. The Arctic Ocean. Vast and closed to shipping in deep winter, the Arctic Ocean is a haven for whales, walruses and many forms of sea life. With changes to Earth’s climate, that ocean is changing and may soon see a growth in sea trade between Europe, Asia and North America.

5. The Baltic. A highway for the Hanseatic trade league, a sea fought over by Sweden and Russia, or a place for testing the world’s first ballistic missiles in World War Two, the Baltic has been at the centre of world history. But what of its changing coastline and abundant life?

6. The Drifting Continents. Only in the last few decades have scientists proved that the continents are slowing drifting around the Earth. But why is this so, how did they start, where did they come from and why is that good for us?

7. Outposts for Research. Science bases on Antarctica and stations on Svalbard in the Arctic are providing valuable information about our world and its changing environment. But it has always been tough living at the edge and we look at how life has improved for personnel at these lonely locations.

8. The Long Walk. Physical remains and genetic research shows that humans originated in Africa and walked to new places, eventually populating the entire planet. But how was that possible and why did they make perilous journeys across hazardous physical barriers and large stretches of water?

9. The short history of a planet. Earth is one among many worlds orbiting the Sun. Why is it is different from the rest and what caused our planet to uniquely spawn life and evolve along with the flora and fauna that so richly populates it today?

10. Life on the Edge. Looks at how living things have grown, diversified and prospered on challenging changes to evolving environments and how the Earth itself is a vessel of change on life’s journey through time.

11. Life’s Really Big Catastrophes. The story of mass extinctions through time, including the dinosaurs. We take a look at how and why these have occurred and ask the really big question: will we as humans go the same way!

12. Whales and Cetaceans. Arguably the most intelligent living things in the seas today, whales are the largest animals on Earth and bigger than most dinosaurs ever were. They have special abilities which fit them for global migration unlike any other animal on the planet. Hunted for centuries, they are making a comeback – just!

WAR HISTORY AND INTELLIGENCE GATHERING

1. Why Hess came to Britain. In 1941 Hitler’s deputy flew to Britain. Why did he do that and what did he hope to achieve? The dramatic story involves some of the most famous people in Britain during the 1940s.

2. The Mitford sisters and Adolf Hitler. Two Mitford girls were seduced by political extremism in the 1930s and spent a lot of time with Adolf Hitler, one of them becoming his particular favourite, a situation which ended up with one going to prison in Britain.

3. Peter the Great – Modernising Russia. In the 17th century Russia was a backward country compared to the rest of Europe but Czar Peter wanted to change all that. He came to London, worked as a Docker and returned with ways to make his country great.

4. The origins of British Intelligence. Linked across four centuries, the epic story of the world’s most envied intelligence service and how an Elizabethan scholar formed England’s first spy organisation to hunt down terrorists and put his country on the map.

5. Elizabeth I – the Beginning of Empire. The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth wrestled with challenges to England and created the beginnings of an Empire that would eventually embrace half the world’s population.

6. The First War in the Air. What was so devastating about the First World War was the use of new technology to fight in a way never possible before. The story of aviation in the 1914-18 war is a classic tale of blunders, bravado, bravery and sheer heroism.

7. The Spitfire – a very British icon. From the drawing board of a designer used to producing seaplanes, a fighter emerged that would epitomise the fighting spirit of a generation, a classic aircraft with a deserved place in history.

8. Concorde – One of a Kind. Anyone who heard and saw the supersonic Concorde will never forget the dart-shaped airliner capable of flying faster and higher than any other commercial aircraft before or since. But why was it built in the first place, and why was it withdrawn from service.

9. The Kaiser and the Dreadnought – the first Arms Race. Before the First World War, Britain ruled the seas across the world and Germany sought parity through an arms race fuelled by a completely new form of warship introduced by the Royal Navy – the Dreadnought battleship.

10. Stone circles in Prehistoric Brittany. People populated Europe for a long time before the first civilisations introduced cities and writing. The evidence is found in cave art and in megalithic structures which astound the eye and tease the imagination. What were they really for?

11. Prehistoric Spain. Long before the written word, people populated Spain and Gibraltar bringing change to a landscape parched and barren. Where did these people come from, how did they live and what remains of their presence can be seen today?

12. When Britain Went to War. The story of how Britain mobilised for war in the 1930s and prepared for one of the greatest challenges to its independence and freedom, dispersing hospitals, building new weapons of war and quietly preparing for a conflict it was not sure it could win.

13. The story of Radar – without the difficult bits! Radar played a crucial role in the Battle of Britain, but who really invented radar and to what other uses has it been put since the Second World War?

14. The Second Elizabethan Age – a time of Discovery. When Elizabeth became Queen on the death of her father in 1952, it heralded a new age of discovery, invention and technical and scientific achievement. We resurrect many of Britain’s great accomplishments of this second Elizabethan Age in a celebration of Britishness.

15. Britain’s War in the Baltic. Forgotten amid the turbulent events surrounding the end of the First World War and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, Britain was for several years of peace at home engaged in all-out war in the Baltic, fighting communist naval forces.

16. Whatever happened to Bletchley Park? When the Second World War ended in 1945 the Enigma code-breakers at Bletchley Park dispersed to several locations around England before occupying a new building near Cheltenham – GCHQ. This is the story of the code-breakers after Bletchley and how it helped keep the peace during the Cold War.

17. The Battle of Britain – a German Perspective. We all know the Royal Air Force played a major role in winning the Battle of Britain, but there were other factors too, well feared by the Nazis, such as the very real presence of the Royal Navy which would have decimated German landing plans.

18. The Viking explorations of North America. Almost a thousand year ago Scandinavian sailors and explorers made a perilous journey across the Arctic lands of Iceland and Greenland to settle on the North American continent. This is the epic story of a heroic age.

19. The US Intelligence Arsenal. In the 21st century the United States has the most powerful arsenal of intelligence-gathering technology in the world, gathering information from on and below the surface of the sea, on land, in the air and from space. Just what does it comprise and how does it all work?

20. Barentsburg – a spy colony in the Arctic. Evolved from a former Dutch mining town, this Russian outpost served a darker purpose in the Cold War when special monitoring equipment was used to log NATO warships prowling around toward Soviet waters from a site on Spitzbergen.

21. The German occupation of Norway. Norway and its neighbours to the south were the first countries in Western Europe attacked and occupied by the German Army in 1940 during World War Two, opposed by a fierce resistance movement. The country played a central part in helping delay German plans for an atomic bomb and saw some of the fiercest naval battles of the war.

22. Secrets of the White Sea. For many decades the White Sea hid a host of Cold War secrets, from nuclear icebreakers to atomic submarines. Cities were built and never put on the map but they are now revealing a past where some of the Soviet Union’s most active naval operations operated from.

23. Singapore in the Second World War. In the 1930s Singapore was Britain’s largest telecommunications switching station and defences were built to protect it in time of war. We look at the role this island played in the fateful events of World War 2 and the dreadful mistakes that were made in not securing its safety.

24. The Siege of Leningrad. For a thousand days the people of Leningrad withstood a siege by German troops during the Second World War and survived to operate as a Baltic port for future generations. We examine why this was unique among all the sieges of that war and why it was so important to the Nazis.

25. The Pacific War. For almost four years the Americans fought a war in the Far East during which the technology of naval warfare was turned upside down, the aircraft carrier replacing the battleship as the flagship of modern naval power. Just how, and why, that came about is understood by looking at the first few months of that conflict.

26. Cold War in a Hot Climate. Fearing a communist takeover of important countries in the Far East, French, and then American troops fought a long and deadly conflict to regain control over Indo-China and in particular Vietnam. We look at the background to this conflict to understand why it happened and what price was paid for a failed attempt to preserve an empire.

27. Malta under Siege. Key to control of the Mediterranean during the Second World War, Malta was defended by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and resupplied to support it as an island fortress and to deny it to German and Italian forces fighting in North Africa.

28. War in North Africa. From 1940 to 1943 the British fought Italian and German forces along the North African coast. Pivotal to success in the European campaign after D-Day in 1944, it was vital that Britain and its American ally evict the Axis forces in what was one of the most sustained and enduring campaigns of the war.

HISTORY AND HISTORIC PLACES

1. St Petersburg. Like Venice, this former capital of Russia has been carved from an unforgiving landscape. Once named Leningrad, the place has a rich tapestry of treasures and outstanding architecture from the days of Imperial Russia which reflects a vibrant and active past.

2. Svalbard. Part research station, part nature conservation area, part residential town for a tiny population of research workers, this outpost of civilisation is set within a stunning landscape providing safe haven for polar bears and a wide range of wildlife and plants.

3. The Story of Roald Amundsen and the Arctic. The exploration of the Arctic has always been a passion for Norwegians and none more so that the man who was the first to plant a flag at the South Pole and who went to extraordinary lengths to explore the Arctic using airships and aeroplanes.

4. The Rome Empire in the Mediterranean. Throughout recorded history, civilisations have come and gone across the developed world. None were more powerful or extensive than that of Imperial Rome. Using access afforded by a linked coastline, the Mediterranean today has powerful reminders of that great age.

5. The Dardanelles – chokepoint to the Black Sea. To the Greeks it was the dividing line between East and West and for a long time between the worlds of Islam and Christianity. It saw the arrival of European powers as they struggled to own its unique access to Istanbul and it became for Imperial Russia to access the Mediterranean.

6. British settlements in North America. Long before the emergence of a British Empire, English sailors were plying the oceans, exploring the world. One of the earliest colonies was established in the north-east of what would become the United States, only a few years after Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean.

7. Stargazing and Stone Circles. Stonehenge, Avebury and many other sites across the British Isles bear testimony to an advanced view of the world and a recognition that the movement of the Sun and the Moon is related to the daily cycle and the seasons. But were our forebears the first true astronomers?

8. Malta – an island of change. From prehistoric times, the Mediterranean island of Malta has been a pivotal location for traders, warriors and now tourists. Home to the Knights Hospitallers, the island has seen many aspiring world powers use it as a fortress and a bastion for defending sea routes and safeguarding maritime influence.

9. The Black Sea. Connected to the Mediterranean by a route through the Dardanelles, the Black Sea is a fascinating natural wonder and has a diverse variety of natural life. Ringed by countries which span two continents, this is one of the most fascinating stretches of water on the planet.

10. Odessa on Fire. The Bolshevik revolution of 1917 lit up Czarist Russia in several locations, not least the port of Odessa where Soviet propagandists and film-makers portrayed a fiction far removed from reality. Just how important was this town to the Communist cause?

11. Howard Hughes – From Film Stars to Satellites. A sometime recluse, Howard Hughes is known for his lavish films and extravagant life but beneath the flamboyant exterior lay many untold secrets, as explained by one who worked with his company and saw another side to his life and times.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

1. On the Spot! A chance to ask any question about any of the above topics listed as talks. I have frequently held “open-mike” forums where passengers throw questions and receive an answer “off the cuff” in live sessions, usually held on a small stage with surrounding audience, designed as an alternative, or a supplement, to formal enrichment talks. Enhances dialogue with the passengers.

2. Book signing. An opportunity to buy a book from the speaker, perhaps linked to an enrichment talk, signed or unsigned as desired.

3. Bridge commentary. I have frequently used cruise-through sailings to help passengers better understand the things they can see from the decks by doing an unscripted commentary at selected places (e.g. the Svalbard, the Dardanelles, the Amazon, and Devil’s Island when the sea-state made it impossible to get off).

4. Designer talks. I am often asked to give a talk relevant to a destination (not a scheduled destination talk for passengers getting off ship) or to provide a briefing for passengers on associated historical or scientific stories appropriate to places they are visiting. I can quickly put together a bespoke talk at a few hours’ notice on board.
CRUISE HISTORY / EXPERIENCE
Completed 21 cruises with Seabourn, Cunard, Fred Olsen, Saga, to Caribbean, Mediterranean, Baltic, Black Sea. Spitzbergen, etc, on wide range of topics as a NASA scientist and award winning author. Extensive tour escort experience and with passenger engagement activities through added question-and-answer sessions in addition to assigned lectures.
RECENT PAST CRUISES COMPLETED
The following recent Cruise History has been recorded for this candidate.
SHIP REF CRUISE DESCRIPTION NIGHTS SAILING FROM DEPARTURE DATE
Queen Mary 2 M702-715 World Cruise 2017 118 Southampton Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Saga Sapphire SA299 Into the Arctic Circle 15 Dover Tuesday, July 5, 2016