Mike Cruise

PhD in X-ray Astronomy 

Mike Cruise joined MSSL in October of 1968 to do a PhD in experimental X-ray astronomy. This was at a time when cosmic X-ray sources had just been discovered, but little was known about them and even their positions in the sky were only known to about a degree or so. The PhD topic was concerned with imaging such sources with a new kind of X-ray optics, to be launched on a series of Skylark rockets from Woomera in South Australia. The work necessary to do this involved the design and testing of electronics, theoretical imaging properties of rotating gratings, project management and data analysis. Eleven visits to Woomera were made over four years and the data were much more complex to analyse than previously imagined. In addition to proving that the technique worked, important changes were proposed to the design of Ariel V so that it would be able to cope with some of the complexities discovered in the rocket flights. Mike moved on to lead the team working on Ariel VI and then spent several years contributing to the ESA Hipparcos mission, a stage at which he first took an interest in General Relativity. In 1986 he left to join the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory where he became the Associate Director for Space Science in 1993. Mike was appointed to a chair in Astrophysics and Space Research at the University of Birmingham in 1995 and subsequently became Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy and then Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer. He stills spend one day a week on research in General Relativity and particularly gravitational waves.  

What did he learn at MSSL? 

Respect for high quality engineering, the importance of good management skills, the need to make every presentation that you give interesting and accessible, and, most importantly, the need to form your own opinion about a subject however much you are dependent on the advice of experts.

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