Production editor by day, spaceman by night

David Woods David Woods is fascinated with the final frontier

David Woods claims his specialist knowledge of the Apollo space missions is nothing more than the result of a 'high-league amateur' hobby, but others may dispute this.

The post-production editor, based in Glasgow, has written two books related to space and has collaborated on numerous programmes and films about the subject.

His in-depth knowledge of the final frontier led to his taking centre stage at a Stargazing Live public event on Wednesday at the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow.

Woods spoke to members of the public about how you get into space, rockets and the concept of zero gravity. 'I try to give the public some basic understanding of how space works,' he says modestly.

His talk followed that of a professor, who explained Supernova.

Start Quote

Walking on the Moon was just an extraordinary dream down the ages … I was enraptured with it and it never really went away”

End Quote David Woods Post-production editor, Glasgow
Space credentials

It's not the first time he has worked with Stargazing Live. So impressive are his space credentials, particularly his knowledge of the Moon, that the hobbyist was asked to be the editor of a series of short films for small children, called Little Stargazing. They aired last year.

Unlike his editing work at the BBC, the public speaking is a relatively new skill. 'I am not somebody who is naturally given to it. I grew up with a speech impediment, quite amazingly. The first book [How Apollo Flew to the Moon] came out in 2008 and since that happened I have slowly found myself asked to do talks and I've started to get used to it.'

He's also been consulted for various programmes, including a biopic of Neil Armstrong and an edition of Radio 4's Archive Hour about the 40th anniversary of the lunar landings. He's also the architect of two specialist websites. One of these, the Apollo Flight Journal, is hosted by Nasa.

He credits the internet for giving an outlet to his endless fascination with space. 'When the internet came along, suddenly you were able to hook up with people who are equally as interested as you. That's one of the things the internet does - it kind of amplifies any interest you may have.'

Through the web, Woods has met astronaut Dave Scott, the spacecraft commander of Apollo 15, who has written the foreword to his books. A few years ago the astronaut came to Glasgow and reviewed his mission for a transcript of Apollo 15.

Boyhood dreams

While the internet has made it easier for Woods to research his areas of interest, his passion for space goes much further back. 'I was a 10-year-old when Apollo 11 happened. It was a very impressionable age, I suppose, and the way I would describe it is that I was enchanted by it, because you see dreams you had as a kid suddenly coming true in front of your eyes.

Crescent moon A crescent-shaped moon, photographed by Woods

'Walking on the Moon was just an extraordinary dream down the ages … I was enraptured with it and it never really went away.'

As someone who has spent much of his life thinking about our solar system, he admits to being a bit wary of attempts by television to cover these kinds of topics - but he's a fan of Stargazing Live. 'Lots of other coverage tends to be stereotypical, but suddenly here are folk who are showing that they are just into this stuff and giving it big lip service.'

The post-production editor was also very taken by the public's positive reaction to it, which he believes is the result of treading a fine line successfully. 'It's a very difficult balance between being narrow and geeky and such like and accessible and showing your enthusiasm.'

He tries to strike this balance himself when he gives a talk - and he has had good feedback from the public. Reviews for his first book have also been favourable. His second book, a Haynes manual on the Apollo lunar rover, came out in November.

'Nobody dies'

Asked how he has time for his hobby and a full-time job, he laughs, 'I don't go to the pub, I don't watch telly much. It's what I do.'

At the moment he is working on putting the final touches on a sitcom - 'You combine technical skills with creative skills and you have to be quite pernickety and don't mess with it, don't get it wrong. This is the very final stage before the public sees it.'

As the main editor on Question Time, he's used to working down to the wire. He usually has only half an hour to make any changes to the programme and get it to air.

Not surprisingly, he makes comparisons with the nature of his work and what it must have been like for missions to space. 'Everything has got to work to a timeline. It's on a knife edge. In my case, nobody dies.'

  • Stargazing Live is on this week on BBC Two


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