Christopher Riley

Christopher Riley

Christopher Riley (born 1967) is a British writer, broadcaster and film maker specialising in the history of science. He has a PhD from Imperial College, University of London where he pioneered the use of digital elevation models in the study of mountain range geomorphology and evolution. He is a Visiting Professor at the University of Lincoln and for the last eighteen years he has worked in the field of public engagement in science.

He makes frequent appearances on British television and radio, broadcasting mainly on space flight, astronomy and planetary science. He is a veteran of two NASA astrobiology missions (Leonid MAC) from 1998 and 1999 – reporting on their progress for BBC news. He co-presented the BBC's coverage of the 1999 and 2001 solar eclipses, and fronted their astronomy magazine show Final Frontier, their cosmology series Journeys in Time and Space, and their live All Night Star Party – a co-production with the Open University. In 2006 he wrote and presented BBC Radio 4's cosmology series The Cosmic Hunters.

Behind the camera he has written and directed more than 50 films for the BBC's classic science magazine show Tomorrow's World and was a producer and director on series six of Rough Science. In 2004 he produced the BBC's two part drama documentary Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets. He was the science consultant on the BBC's remakes of their science fiction cult classics A for Andromeda (2006) and The Quatermass Experiment (2005). He directed and produced on the feature documentary film In the Shadow of the Moon, which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the World Cinema Audience Documentary Award. The film was released in the US and Europe during the autumn of 2007.

At the Cheltenham Science Festival in 2009 he presented research conducted with forensic linguist John Olsson on the recordings of Neil Armstrong's first words spoken on the surface of the Moon in July 1969. Their study confirmed that the "a" was missing - contradicting previous conclusions presented by Peter Shann Ford in 2006.[1] Olsson and Riley went on to show that the words were spoken spontaneously and were not rehearsed or composed by some ‘wordsmith’ beforehand as many have speculated they might have been.

During the making of In the Shadow of the Moon he rediscovered the only surviving 35mm print of the complete version of NASA's original Apollo 11 documentary film Moonwalk One which had been stored under the film's director Theo Kamecke's desk since it was made. With NASA's blessing the pair worked to restore and remaster the feature film and re-released it in time for the 40th anniversary of the flight of Apollo 11 in July 2009.


Awards & Honours

In 2005 he was given a Sir Arthur Clarke Award for his work producing the BBC's Space Odyssey series. The same year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society for his endeavours in communicating astronomy to the public. His films and TV series on the history of science have won a nomination from the Royal Television Society and the World Cinema Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival 2007. He received a second Sir Arthur Clarke Award in 2008 for In the Shadow of the Moon and a Grand REMI from the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival in 2009 for his Moon Machines episode on the Command Module.


He has directed, produced, science consulted or hosted on the following films & TV series (incomplete):

  • 2011 Space Shuttle - the final mission, Ricochet Television, BBC TV
  • 2011 First Orbit, The Attic Room, YouTube, BBC Big Screens
  • 2011 Destination Titan, BBC TV
  • 2010 Dust, Stylus Films, The Attic Room, Shorts International
  • 2009 One Small Step - The Australian Story, Freehand, BBC Worldwide
  • 2009 James May on the Moon, BBC TV
  • 2009 Moonwalk One - the director's cut, BHP Group, DVD, Discovery Channel (UK)
  • 2004 Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets, BBC TV, Discovery Channel
  • 2004 Space Odyssey: the robot pioneers, BBC TV, Discovery Channel
  • 2003 All Night Star Party, BBC TV
  • 2002 Can't Get Enough, BBC TV
  • 2001 Secret Life of Ghosts and Werewolves, BBC TV
  • 2001 Final Frontier, BBC TV
  • 2001 Journeys in Time and Space, BBC TV
  • 1999 Eclipse Live, BBC TV
  • 1999 The Planets, BBC TV

Video Installations

In 2009, to coincide with the 40th Anniversary of the flight of Apollo 11, he collaborated with the London Science Museum on a novel video installation called "Apollo Raw and Uncut" which projected all 23 hours of NASA's 16mm Apollo flight film, shot on Apollo missions AS-501 (Apollo 4) to AS-512 (Apollo 17). Much of this footage, including an almost 8 minute sequence documenting a long drive across the rugged Descartes Highlands had never been screened in its entirety in public before. The aim of the installation was to present the story of Apollo in as unedited and unfiltered form as possible.[2] The work was screened again in Montreal, Quebec, in November 2009, as part of an exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture called 'Intermission: Films from a Heroic Future', which Riley also helped to curate.[3] Continuing the presentation of overlooked space film archives in public gallery spaces Chris collaborated with the London based creative science agency Super/Collider on his 2011 show Cone Crater - a 40th anniversary celebration of Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell's exploration of the Frau Mauro lunar highlands, which played at The Book Club, London as part of the Apollo's End project.[4]

In April 2011 Chris premiered First Orbit a film tribute to Yuri Gagarin which he filmed in collaboration with European Space Agency Astronaut Paolo Nespoli. The film was recorded by matching the orbit of the International Space Station to the ground path of Gagarin's Vostok 1 mission, and released for free to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the pioneering human space flight.[5]


He has co-written or contributed to the following books:

  • Rose, Andrea, ed (July 2011). Gagarin in Britain. Corner House. p. 158pp. ISBN 780863556630. 
  • Riley, Christopher and Dolling, Phil (June 2009). Apollo 11 owners' workshop manual. Haynes. p. 160pp. ISBN 1844256839. 
  • Haines, Tim and Riley, Christopher (October 2004). Space Odyssey: voyage to the planets. BBC Books. p. 192pp. ISBN 90-5210-593-6. 
  • Ridpath, Ian, ed (June 2001). Collins Encyclopedia of the Universe. Collins. p. 384pp. ISBN 0007105851. 


See also


  1. ^ [1] – An analysis of the recording of Armstrong’s statement on stepping on the Moon in July 1969
  2. ^ [2] – Apollo raw and uncut, London Science Museum
  3. ^ [3] – Secrets of Apollo, Canadian Centre for Architecture
  4. ^ [4] – Apollo+40, Super/Collider
  5. ^ [5] – Movie recreates Gagarin's spaceflight, BBC News

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