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OU on the BBC: James May's 20th Century - About the series

Updated Tuesday, 3rd July 2007

Top Gear presenter James May takes a tour of the 20th century- trying out for himself some of the most surprising and influential technological advances of the past hundred years.

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James May Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team

Over the years James has driven hundreds of the most sophisticated cars ever built on the planet – but for this series he gets the chance to drive one built for another world - one designed to roam across the lunar landscape.

Jay Kay – the lead singer from Jamiroquai - lends James his replica Lunar Rover to test drive. NASA built four to take to the moon in the 1970s, and at $38 million, they were the most expensive fleet cars ever built.

He drives the car to a quiet suburban corner of Chiswick, West London: to Staveley Road, the spot where he believes the Space Age began from Britain's point of view. Here, the first of Hitler’s V2 rockets hit Britain.

It's the start of May's quest to understand what the Space Race really did for the billions of us who never made it into orbit. It takes him to the Kennedy Space centre in Florida, and then to mission control in Guildford, Surrey, where he gets his hands on a satellite to take his own special photograph of a patch of planet Earth.

James May’s 20th Century looks at advances in aviation, warfare, medicine and examines the strange story of how the 20th century invented teenagers.

James has his brain photographed while he’s looking at his favourite cars to see how he reacts to pleasure and the promise of speed.

And, in a life-changing experience, James sits in the co-pilot's seat of the RAF’s latest supersonic jet fighter, the Typhoon, experiencing a full-power takeoff over Lincolnshire. It can go from brakes-off to 35 000 feet in under 150 seconds.

Not quite an Apollo launch, but the next best thing.

 

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