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. His crowning achievement has been to pioneer the stock footage website Footagevault.
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. He produced Kevin Fong's 2011 portrait of the Space Shuttle for BBC Two and Produced and Directed a 2012 film presented by Dallas Campbell which celebrated thirty-five years of NASA's Voyager Program for BBC Four.
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. 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.
The following year, Riley teamed up with the European Space Agency and Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli to make the feature length documentary First Orbit which re-created Yuri Gagarin's pioneering spaceflight Vostok 1. The film was recorded by matching the orbit of the International Space Station to the ground path of Vostok 1, and released for free to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the pioneering human space flight.
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.
Films & Television
He has directed, produced, science consulted or hosted on the following films & TV series (incomplete):
- 2013 The Fantastic Mr Feynman, BBC Scotland, BBC TV
- 2012 Neil Armstrong. First Man on the Moon, Darlow Smithson, BBC TV
- 2012 Voyager: to the final frontier, BBC Scotland, BBC Four
- 2011 Dark Matters, Wide Eyed Entertainment, Science Channel
- 2011 Space Shuttle - the final mission, Ricochet Television, BBC TV
- 2011 James May's Things You Need To Know, The Universe, Impossible Pictures, BBC TV
- 2011 First Orbit, The Attic Room, YouTube, BBC Big Screens
- 2011 Destination Titan, BBC TV
- 2011 Outcasts, Kudos, 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)
- 2009 Music for Astronauts and Cosmonauts, BFI, DVD
- 2008 When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions, Discovery Channel
- 2008 Moon machines, Discovery Science Channel
- 2007 In the Shadow of the Moon, Film 4, THINK Film, Discovery Films
- 2006 A for Andromeda
- 2005 Rough Science, Series 6, BBC TV
- 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
- 2002 Tomorrow's World, Series 38, BBC TV
- 2001 Secret Life of Ghosts and Werewolves, BBC TV
- 2001 Tomorrow's World, Series 37, BBC TV
- 2001 Final Frontier, BBC TV
- 2001 Journeys in Time and Space, BBC TV
- 2000 Tomorrow's World, Series 36, BBC TV
- 2000 2000 Today, BBC TV
- 1999 Eclipse Live, BBC TV
- 1999 The Planets, BBC TV
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. 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. 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.
He has co-written or contributed to the following books:
- Riley, Christopher, Woods, David and Dolling, Phil (November 2012). Apollo Lunar Rover owners' workshop manual. Haynes. p. 192pp. ISBN 0857332678.
- Harris, Gemma, ed. (October 2012). Big Questions from Little People. Faber and Faber. p. 336pp. ISBN 0571288510.
- Cox, Kenneth, ed. (October 2012). International Cooperation for the Development of Space. Aerospace Technology Working Group. p. 518pp. ISBN 1478186232.
- Rose, Andrea, ed. (July 2011). Gagarin in Britain. Corner House. p. 158pp. ISBN 0863556639.
- Riley, Christopher and Dolling, Phil (June 2009). Apollo 11 owners' workshop manual. Haynes. p. 160pp. ISBN 1-84425-683-9.
- 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 0-00-710585-1.
- Christopher Riley (2013-05-09). "Richard Feynman: Life, the universe and everything". London: The Telegraph.
- Christopher Riley (2013-01-08). "Tire Tracks to Our Future: 40th Anniversary of NASA's Lunar Rover". Houston: America Space.
- Christopher Riley (2012-12-16). "Apollo 40 years on: how the moon missions changed the world for ever". London: The Observer.
- Christopher Riley (2012-10-22). "The Maths that made Voyager possible". London: BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (2012-10-21). "Voyager: the space explorers that are still boldly going to the stars". London: The Observer.
- Christopher Riley (2012-04-09). "The Human Imperative". Hyderabad: The Financial Chronicle.
- Christopher Riley (2012-03-29). "Words of Captain Scott: 100 years of hindsight". London: The Wellcome Trust.
- Christopher Riley (2011-07-07). "Space Shuttle: An open letter to President Obama". London: The Guardian.
- Christopher Riley (2011-04-12). "What Yuri Gagarin saw: First Orbit film to reveal the view from Vostok 1". London: The Guardian.
- Christopher Riley (2010-07-20). "Sound restored to mission control film shot during Apollo 11 moon landing". London: The Guardian.
- Christopher Riley (2009-07-15). "The Magic of Apollo". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (2009-07-10). "Twelve Men who have visited another world". London: The Guardian.
- Christopher Riley (2009-07-02). "The 400,000 strong backup team". London: The Guardian, G2.
- Christopher Riley (2009-05-18). "Rendezvous around the Moon". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (2009-03-12). "Flight of the Spider". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (2008-12-24). "Happy Birthday Earthrise". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (2006-09-06). "A view from the Cosmic Shoulder". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (2004-11-10). "We Choose to go to the Planets". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (2004-11-08). "Pushing Frontiers in TV Space". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (2002-05-15). "Shaken back to Health". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (2002-08-01). "UK First Impact Crater Discovered". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (2001-04-11). "Robot Insects Take to the Air". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (2000-05-17). "Glowing Plants reveal Touch Sensitivity". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (1999-11-18). "In the Leonids Lair". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (1999-11-17). "Voyage Through a Comets Tail". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (1999-05-05). "When Worlds Collide". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (1998-12-04). "Return to Mission Leonid". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (1998-11-17). "An invitation to the firework party". BBC News.
- Christopher Riley (1994-10-11). "Take a peek at Venus unveiled and die.". The Independent.
- Christopher Riley (1994-03-23). "All the answers from dial-a-boffin .". The Independent.
- "home page". Christopher Riley.
- "One Small Step for 'a' Man - one giant hoo ha for Mankind!". John Olsson & Christopher Riley.
- "Christopher Riley". IMDB Earths Biggest Movie Database.
- Booth, William (2007-01-22). "Reaching for the Moon at Sundance". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- "Bright Launch for Apollo Moon Doc". Wired. 2007-01-26.
- McCarthy, Todd (2007-01-31). "In The Shadow of the Moon". Variety.
- "Sundance: In The Shadow of the Moon". Greencine. 2007-01-25.
- "Chest of Lies". LA Weekly. 2007-01-31.