Thursday 3rd September 2009 by C. Freeman
Students were given the challenge of building a space probe to rendez-vous with a comet during an action-packed trip to the National Space Centre. The mission boosted their team-building and communication skills and gave them a chance to work under pressure to complete the task on time.
A total of 150 students visited the Space Centre in Leicester on three consecutive days. As well as completing the space challenge, they also got a chance to look around the exhibits and view a film in the 360 degree space theatre. One, entitled We Are Astronomers, showed how people through the ages have been fascinated by space, from the earliest stargazers through to scientists developing the latest technologies.
Teacher Miss Boyce said: 'The students did really well with the challenge which was timed so if they a problem and their probe was not going to reach the comet they got red lights appearing in the control room, like an emergency situation. They got an idea of how to communicate from the control room up to people in the space centre, they had to be quite confident and send messages. We mixed some of the groups up so the students weren't necessarily working with the same people they normally do.'
The students looked at relevant topics in their science lessons beforehand so they got the most out of their time at the Centre. Miss Boyce's group studied the flight, problems and dramatic return of the lunar mission, Apollo 13, which transfixed the world nearly 40 years ago.
Students saw all the aspects of life in space, from the massive rockets on display in the glass tower to the smallest item of space paraphernalia. Everyday items such as cordless power tools, freeze dried food, water filters, smoke detectors and memory foam were all first developed for use during the NASA space programme of the mid 20th century onwards.
The mechanics of daily life in space proved fascinating. Miss Boyce said: 'There was a spacesuit of someone crouched down really cramped up and the students wanted to know was that really how they had to sit? There was also a cubicle where they had a shower and loo in a really compact area almost the size of a filing cabinet so they were all quite surprised by that. They day went really quickly and the students all really worked well together.'