Year 13 pupils from Wykham Park Academy joined a handful of their peers from schools across the Aspirations Academies Trust to visit the Johnson and Kennedy Space Centres in the United States.

The students took in the real, life-size versions of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo rocket capsules and met with NASA employees, including NASA’s first female and Hispanic flight director, Ginger Kerrick.

The group also organised networking dinners where they were able to hold conversations and be inspired by NASA scientists and engineers to pursue a career in the space industry.

Simon Sterland, operational lead of the NASA trip and a teacher at Wykham Park Academy, told the Banbury Guardian: “This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our students. Money cannot buy what happens on these trips.

“They are organised especially for our Aspirations Academies Trust pupils and they are given behind-the-scenes access of NASA facilities and resources. They are also able to meet NASA employees which is a great networking opportunity for them.

“A lot of time is invested by the experts that we meet in getting to know our students and trying to help them. A trip like this allows our students to see the possibilities open to them; it is life-changing.”

Wykham Park students visiting one of NASA’s rocket parks

Wykham Park students enjoyed their trip to NASA

Students Natalie Yeap and Archie Brown were chosen to attend the week long trip, and both students were left in awe at some of the sights and experiences they had.

Natalie said: “NASA’s first female and Hispanic flight director, Ginger Kerrick gave an inspiring and insightful talk about her journey towards her senior role, recounting her experiences, struggles and triumphs during her long, extraordinary career.

“A particularly compelling story was the challenges she faced in her pursuit of studying physics, being obstructed by a teacher due to his misogynistic views.

“Ginger also explained her vision for the future of manned spaceflight, her transition to working with a company in the space industry and the skills needed to work as flight director.

“She emphasised the importance of emotional intelligence, communication and leadership strength.

“The NASA trip was a fantastic experience and really opened our eyes to the opportunities available to us.”

Students from the Aspirations Academies Trust meeting with NASA first female and Hispanic flight director Ginger Kerrick

Wykham Park Academy students also visited Rice University