Tim Peake, a British astronaut, returned from a six-month space expedition on the International Space Station in June earlier this year. The mission on the ISS was to maintain the weightless research laboratory, whilst carrying out scientific research experiments for hundreds of researchers back on earth. On Saturday 5th November, Tim visited York to host a major educational conference based on space exploration, which involved many children showcasing their work linked to Tim’s Prinicipa mission. Organised by The UK Space Agency, the conferences allowed school children to show off their projects to leading teams from both the UK agency and The European Space Agency.
The day began with a talk in Central Hall by Tim Peake himself. Students, STEM ambassadors, teachers, those in industry and scientists listened about his time and life on the International Space Station (ISS).
Tim began by explaining the roles and routines of a day on the ISS. Working days last around 12 hours, and looking down and out onto planet earth was the best part of each day, he said. At 400km above the planet, and orbiting it 16 times per day, Tim explained how he and his team got a feel for the earth beneath him, becoming familiar with places he would probably never visit. Based on his incredible experience, he then said, “I can now appreciate how tiny and fragile we are”.
Tim also expanded on the procedures before setting off on a six- month space expedition, which involved living behind glass for two weeks to prevent the spreading of viruses, and to ensure the right mental mind set was achieved before setting off. After a quick blessing from the priest, they are all set. Tim went on to reveal that the white colour of the rocket before take-off is actually due to ice; the original colour is green.
- Ten to fifteen seconds after take-off, astronauts begin to feel the acceleration.
- 4Gs of acceleration can be felt, and after 60km, the 4 stage boosters fall off.
- After 100km, the astronauts are officially in space.
- At acceleration, the rocket travels at the speed ten times that of a bullet.
- After just 6 hours, once 200km is reached, the crew check the rocket for any errors, and rendezvous with the space station.
Although Tim stated that whilst in space they were “there to do science”, Saturday mornings were there as time to hoover and clean the aircraft. Voluntary science activities were carried out and a rover was controlled and driven on earth from space.
Tim and his team carried out life science experiments whist on the ISS, observing changes in the human body whilst in space, and promoting a healthy lifestyle and diet to overcome any deterioration such as loss of muscle mass. Tim experienced physiological alterations on his mission; he acquired a puffy face and stuffy nose, a shift of fluids to his heart which resulted in increased pressure, he became long sighted, his muscles shrank and his bone density decreased. It was realised by Tim here how well the human body can adapt to different environments.
Alongside the scientific research Tim and his team carried out, the prinicpa for education programmes were a significant part of the expedition, focusing on inspiring children and promoting STEM. Activities on biology and rocket science, computing, space science, communication from space, fitness and healthy living were created to promote STEM fields to children during and after the space mission.
Towards the end of the talk, Tim was awarded as the very first UK honorary STEM ambassador for his “interests and enthusiasm in STEM”. Prior to the award, a representative from the STEM learning centre, based in The University of York Science Park said, “If we can encourage children to look at STEM in a different way we can open opportunities to many different careers”. She then went on to explain how it was ten years ago when a large investment was available for a STEM learning centre, a competitive exercise resulted in York securing the spot.
The centre provides support for teachers, including CPD sessions which can last between one and five days hosted by experienced teachers. As the first honorary STEM ambassador, Tim will have a great influence on many school children and their career aspirations, which will hopefully hold a very positive impact for the futures of many students.