Tuesday, November 17, 1998 Published at 19:14 GMT
An invitation to the fireworks party
Most spectacular celestial light show in decades
He is travelling with 40 scientists and engineers as they fly two planes directly under the Leonid meteor storm on the night of Tuesday, 17 November.
"It's the chance of a lifetime, it really is," said Chris before he left to join the Nasa mission.
The shooting stars are actually tiny fragments of dust left in the wake of a comet called Temple-Tuttle. As the Earth passes through this space debris, the dust particles plunge into our atmosphere and burn up, producing streaks of light across the sky.
"Most of the Leonid meteors burn up quite high above our heads - about 18 km up - and we'll be flying a bit lower than that at nine or 10 km," said Chris. "It gives us a much better vantage point to look at the meteors"
The Asia-Pacific region is expected to witness the best of the storm - at about 19:45 GMT - which is why the Nasa mission has based itself at the Okinawa base in Japan.
"The two planes will fly about 100 km apart and that will give us a nice stereoscopic view on the storm - so we can see a meteor from two different angles."
The Japanese broadcaster NHK is flying a high definition TV camera on one of the planes, mounted in the top of the aircraft to view a large proportion of the sky.
They plan to broadcast a live programme from the air during the storm and will feed the HDTV images to Nasa for worldwide broadcast on NASA select TV.
Of greater scientific significance, the mission will also attempt to study the chemistry of the of the meteors.
"Each shooting star carries with it some secrets of its chemistry, and when it burns up it releases those secrets," said Chris.
"So, if you can photograph them, you can unpick and unravel the mysteries of the Leonids - you can tell exactly what they are made of."
"Even with the naked eye you can see different colours, but on board these planes that Nasa is flying we've got some very sensitive equipment which can see down to 40 times as faint as the human eye can see, and in many frequencies that the human eye can't pick up."
Scientists hope this information will shed new light on the popular theory that comets and meteors "seeded" life on Earth by bringing to the planet some of the basic chemical components necessary to construct living organisms.
Other experiments will tell us more about the structure of the comet that produced the dust particles, and give us new insight into the nature of our upper atmosphere.