Trip to the National Space Centre

Sadly, Monday signalled the time to send our Sokol friend onto his new home, but not before adding a new resource to his case – an instructional DVD starring our very own Mr Randall. I’m sure it will prove both very useful and entertaining for the next occupants.

Once completed, it was time to focus on the next event. Indeed, it’s hard to believe that we are only four weeks into the new term. So much seems to have happened that I am losing all track of time.  This week was no exception, with the Year 5 trip to the National Space Centre in Leicester – and what an ‘Out of This World’ experience we had.

The day didn’t exactly start off as planned, as despite leaving early before 8:30am, we were quickly ensnared in the web of traffic that is the A500 – but this time, much worse than normal, unfortunately. Having doubled back, about 45 minutes later, we eventually reached Junction 15 of the M6 to try and head down the opposite way to reach our route – very frustrating for all.

Fortunately, I had booked our mission for the afternoon slot, so that it meant we would only miss time looking around the exhibits. After a stop at a service station for some of the children to relieve themselves (including the driver!), we finally arrived at 10:45am – 45 minutes late – to be met by a friendly representative who gave us a brief overview of the day.

Lunch bags deposited, we headed off to explore. The first thing we saw was a Soyuz spacecraft suspended from the ceiling – very apt as this is the current mode of transport for astronauts travelling to the ISS and we have just spent two weeks examining the spacesuit that they wear during their voyage. By the way, did you know that it costs £34million just for a seat! Not to mention all the training expenses and equipment.

Through the turnstiles and the world of space was opened up to us. There was so much to feast your eyes on; it was difficult to know where to look first. It was certainly brain overload for many of the children (and adults!). I certainly would like to return and spend time investigating in more detail.

One of the highlights of the exhibition was the 42 metre Rocket Tower, which you had to climb 144 stairs to reach the top of. This houses the Blue Streak and Thor Able rockets as well as an Apollo Lunar Lander and a large piece of Moon Rock collected by Gene Carnan – the last man to walk on the Moon. Wait a minute; didn’t we have some samples in Rode Heath School last year?

The morning flew by in a whirlwind and we were glad to sit down to have our lunch. It was however, nothing compared to the afternoon’s events.

At 1pm we were led by our Mission Commander outside the building to the Challenger Learning Centre. This is the only one of its kind in Europe and was set up with money raised following the Challenger disaster in 1986. Our mission was to rendezvous with and land a probe on a comet.

The class was split into two teams: Mission Control and the Spacecraft Crew. Each pupil had a designated role within their team, which was mirrored by the other team. I couldn’t believe it when, after a short briefing, we entered the Mission Control area. It was actually set up like the real NASA Mission Control with computers, monitors, benches and headsets to communicate with those in the spacecraft. Instructions came thick and fast and I could see some of the children were starting to panic, particularly Hannah who had the job of relaying all the messages to the other team. But I needn’t have worried. Once the children got the hang of following the steps in their mission pack, everything ran pretty smoothly. Helena, working with Taylor in the Spacecraft, found an unfamiliar object and using information gathered by the other team, identified this as a new comet, which we later named as RHPS5 after the school.

Half way through the session the teams swapped over and having travelled in the shuttle, we emerged through an airlock into the spacecraft itself. The activities here were much more hands on, with children using robotic arms to measure the weights of substances and testing the PH of various liquids. Helena and Taylor were now responsible for finding the best landing site on the RHPS5 comet, whilst Charlie and Ruby assembled the probe in an enclosed ‘Clean Environment’.

With minutes to spare they achieved their objective and using Helena and Taylor’s co-ordinates the probe was successfully deployed and landed on the surface of RHPS5 to huge cheers from Year 5. The teamwork had been fantastic and the children were complimented on their ability to complete what was regarded as a very challenging mission.

Apparently they do sleepovers too . . .

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