Astronauts' visit leaves Tonbridge students floating on air

STARS OF THE SHOW: Astronauts Michael Foale (left) and Steve Swanson at Tonbridge School's Mission Discovery week

Astronauts' visit leaves Tonbridge students floating on air

by Andy Tong | 28th March 2019

STUDENTS from six schools were invited to meet NASA astronauts as part of an exciting science project at Tonbridge School last week.

Mission Discovery saw pupils from across the region take part in a competition to create an experiment which will be carried out on the International Space Station [ISS].

Dr Michael Foale CBE, the first British-born astronaut who has been on six missions in space, was joined by fellow ex-ISS commander Dr Steve Swanson of the United States.

The five-day programme was created by the International Space School Educational Trust.

Tonbridge is the first school in the UK to host the event, coinciding with the official opening of its new state-of-the-art Barton Science Centre.

Visiting schools included The Judd School, Weald of Kent, The Skinners’ School, Skinners’ Kent Academy, Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School and The Marsh Academy.

HIGH HOPES: Pupils from seven schools designed experiments in the new Barton Science Centre

Dr Foale said: “Mission Discovery is the most complete and exciting educational programme I have worked with.

“I’m always excited to see where the students’ imaginations take them and watch their ideas develop throughout the week.

“When I was young, I would have loved the chance to have an experiment flown into space.”

The winning design will be constructed by King’s College London and NASA.

Past entries have included work on genetics, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Swanson, who has logged over six months in space, travelled 83million miles and undertaken four spacewalks, described what it was like to live in orbit above the earth.

“Being in space is like ageing quickly,” he said. “You suffer muscle loss and your immune system struggles, and so part of our research was in looking at ways to combat this.

“We carried out lots of small experiments on our bodies, to see how our body chemistry was changing. We were like guinea pigs.”

He revealed that it takes ten days be able to balance properly after landing back on Earth, adding: “Your strength takes around six months to get back to normal.”

Describing his ambitions when he was at school he said: “I wanted to be a -mountaineer until I realised there was no real career to be had.”

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