A Scottish space pilot was so inspired by the book Exploring Space that he took it with him on his first journey into orbit.
David MacKay, the first ever Scottish space pilot, received the Ladybird book as a child for good attendance at Sunday School. Growing up in the historic Highland county of Sutherland, MacKay’s dreams of flying were first inspired by the local Royal Naval Air Station (now RAF Lossiemouth). Watching the planes flying low over his village of Helmsdale, MacKay would dream of flying and travelling the world. The Apollo missions happening around the same time, MacKay’s daydreaming and wanderlust soon took a look skywards; once he was handed the Exploring Space book, MacKay knew what he wanted to do.
The Scottish spaceman’s high-flying career started when studying aeronautical engineering at the University of Glasgow in 1977. He spent 16 years as a military pilot and after the RAF he flew passenger crafts before joining Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and joined the commercial space race.
In February 2019, David MacKay guided a Virgin Galactic space craft to almost 56 miles (90km) above earth and took his childhood book with him.
The first Scottish space pilot told the BBC:
“At certain points in my life people have called me a dreamer and I would say to young children that dreams are good. It is better to have an impossible dream than no dream at all. If you have a dream and you really, really want it you have to work at it. By preparing yourself by getting the qualifications you need and then if you are lucky and in the right place and right time, you can grasp that opportunity.”