This week marks the beginning of Aspirations Academies Trust’s annual trip to the United States to visit the Johnson and Kennedy NASA Space Centers in Houston, Texas, and Merritt Island, Florida, respectively.

Students from each Year 12 group within the Trust are able to apply to attend the trip, so pupils from Rivers Academy West London, Space Studio West London, Budmouth Academy, Magna Academy Poole, Wykham Park Academy and Futures Institute Banbury will all be flying to the States tomorrow.

The prestigious annual visit has been running since the Trust was founded, and is a key highlight of the Aspirations Academies Trust calendar. Students discover space exploration from NASA experts, including astronauts, engineers and scientists. The key objective is for the pupils to learn from the key figures at the frontier of science.

In addition to visiting these Space Centers, the group will also attend a lecture from an astrophysicist at Rice University and dining with professionals in the evening to attain a well-rounded, informal understanding of following a career in aerospace engineering and other STEM-related career paths.

The 10-day-long trip is enormously valuable to students that attend as the group are able to receive behind-the-scenes tours of some parts of NASA centers that are not usually open to the public. Moreover, being in such an esteemed environment and surrounded by such exciting experts is hugely inspiring for students that are in the process of deciding which direction they would like to take their lives.

Caroline Barringer, who has organised the trip for seven years, said that the excursion is: “an opportunity that is unique to the Trust, and one that many students may not otherwise have”, she added “the trip’s mantra is that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what your background is”.

“That is evident on the trip as we meet people that work in what is commonly considered to be dream jobs, but they are just ordinary people that believed in themselves, worked hard, and capitalised on these golden opportunities.”

Earlier this year, students that had previously attended the trip spoke with Aspirations Academies Trust and they said that the trip had a direct impact on what they have chosen to pursue in their careers: 

Matthew Meades, now 23, said: “I wasn’t sure before the trip, but visiting these amazing sites of space exploration cemented my decision to study aerospace engineering at Uni. The trip was definitely aspirational in that respect! I was even lucky enough to stay in contact with an electronic programmer for Orion capsule, who offered me career and internship advice”.

Matthew and his friend Max Wojtkiewicz have fond memories of the trip: “Almost every single dinner was accompanied by a NASA professional – whether that’s an astronaut, an engineer or a scientist – which was great for building rapport with experts in the field and learning more, even at dinner time!”