Intrepid students from six Aspirations academies recently visited NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas on the educational trip of a lifetime. The annual trip is a highlight of the academic year for Year 12 students across the Aspirations Academies Trust and is organised under the Trust’s Space Education Adventure programme designed to encourage students from underrepresented groups to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.

An exciting programme of visits and activities included a guided tour of the Space Center Houston museum, where they learned about the history of NASA and the American space program, and the chance to view exhibits from the Apollo Moon missions, the Space Shuttle program, and the International Space Station. 

A tram tour of the Johnson Space Center took the party to the Mission Control Center, the Rocket Park, and the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility where the teenagers learned how NASA flight controllers monitor and control spacecraft missions. They were able to see the Saturn V rocket that took Apollo 11 to the Moon as well as a full-scale mockup of the Space Shuttle Discovery.

“It’s amazing to see craft up close,” said SSWL student, Yash. “And it’s been great to be able to ask so many questions about the missions and other work at NASA. There are lots of interesting people with unusual careers around!”

“We’ve learned some unexpected things, too,” explained Laila, a student at Magna Academy. “We were all surprised to hear that Prada have recently signed up to design astronaut suits!”

In addition to the tours, the students enjoyed interactive experiences and conversations with astronauts and engineers who offered advice and guidance on careers in aerospace technology. 

The ten day trip also included visits to local schools  to collaborate with students on STEM-based design projects and to Rice University where they dropped in on lectures covering astrophysics, and an invitation to attend a High School American football match.

“We’re keen that the students should experience as much as they can while they’re here,” said trip leader Simon Sterland. “Aspirations Academies Trust places the kind of project-based learning that goes on here at the heart of the education it offers in its academies. I think the students get a real sense when they’re in Houston of exactly how important it is. And it’s been great to see them working with their American counterparts, immersed in a different culture. The meals out and the shopping have also been very popular!”

“Coming to NASA has been a once in a lifetime experience,” said Park Academy student, Urveen. “It’s really motivated me to think about what I want from a career in the future.”

This article was published on Dorset Biz News and Dorset Echo.