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Some initial space notes

Jonathan Amos | 12:20 UK time, Wednesday, 15 July 2009

When you've been in the BBC as long as I have, you rise to the lofty position where you get to deal with complaints. So I thought I'd start this blog by heading off the single most common complaint about the BBC's space coverage: the way we write the acronyms for the US and European space agencies in lower-case letters - "Nasa" and "Esa".

If I'd had a pound coin for every time someone wrote in to say, "It's 'NASA' and 'ESA', you dummies", I could have gathered together enough cash to start my own space programme.

It's a style thing. The BBC only uses upper-case for the acronyms in which each individual letter is sounded, as in, err, "BBC". It's supposed to make pages with lots of acronyms look less "bossy", and it gives the reader an idea of how to pronounce ones they've never encountered before.

I didn't make this rule, but I do follow it. It has some logic to it.

As with all "rules", there are exceptions. Take for example the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System used by US. It's a network of satellites in the sky that other spacecraft use to communicate among each other and with the ground. Some people say it "Tee-dress", but for us to write it as "Tdrss", or even "TDrss", frankly looks bizarre. So you'll only ever see me write it "TDRSS".

Like I said, there is some logic to the rule.

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