By Gillian McPherson
Pupils have the chance to work with NASA astronauts and scientists this summer as a pioneering space school returns to Renfrewshire and Ayrshire.
Former commander of the International Space Station Michael Foale and veteran of four spacewalks Steve Swanson are already lined up to attend the five-day Mission Discovery schools.
The programme, run by the International Space School Educational Trust, gives pupils moving into fourth year the opportunity to work with the world’s greatest minds to develop an experiment for space.
The winning ideas are then selected by the prestigious judging panel of astronauts, scientists and university lecturers before being launched into orbit and conducted on the ISS.
ISSET Andy Campbell, who first brought Mission Discovery to Scotland four years ago, said: “The ISS really represents the pinnacle of human achievement on and off this planet, so to make that huge science lab in the sky available to Scottish school children is just wonderful.
“It is a unique programme and we are delighted to be running it in Scotland again after the first experiment by Scottish kids went up into space a year ago in April 2016 and further experiments have been sent up since.
“When you are looking at how to encourage young people into a career in STEM and particularly young girls, who at some point sort of switch off, to give them the chance to have their experiment flown up to the ISS is tremendous and they always go away feeling that their life has changed a little bit for the better.”
There are 138 places available for pupils at the schools, which will be held at the University of the West of Scotland in Paisley and at Ayrshire College.
The lucky few who get to attend will be able to hear from Michael Foale on the 20th Anniversary of the month he saved his crew after the worst collision in space exploration history.
In 1997 a cargo ship crashed into the Mir space station he was working on causing extensive damage and the air to start leaving the station.
After the crew plugged the leak, Foale then used his knowledge and calculations to correct the spin the station had been sent into by the collision and allow their electricity supply to be restored.
Foale said of his involvement with Mission Discovery: “Humans need excitement and inspiration to do things, if you are not excited and motivated it’s very easy for us not to be productive.
“I think any kind of motivation or inspiration for young people is really important, especially as science, technology and maths are some of the areas that really need motivation.
“When I was first invited several years ago to start talking to kids at Mission Discovery I got so into the excitement of young people being interested in space and me telling my story that it kind of let me re-live the whole thing again.
“So I get excited all over again about space and get as much out of the kids who come to Mission Discovery as they get out of me.
Both schools will run from Monday 5 June to Friday 9 June 2017. The closing date for the online application is Friday 5 May 2017.