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Astronaut Commander Scott Kelly touches down at Imperial on flying visit from NASA

See also...
-Imperial Outreach
External Sites:
-Astro Soc
(Imperial College is not responsible for the content of these external internet sites)

22 November 2005
By Laura Gallagher

Imperial played host to astronaut Commander Scott Kelly yesterday as he touched down to show students and schoolchildren how science, maths and engineering education can lead to some of the best jobs on earth.

Commander Kelly signed autographs for students and schoolchildren following his talk

Commander Kelly piloted the space shuttle Discovery on an eight day mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope in 1999 and he is due to command the STS 118 space shuttle mission in 2007.

Welcoming Commander Kelly, Senior Dean Professor David Phillips Opens in new window said: "Scott is an engineer by training and he is a wonderful advert for what you can do after training to be a scientist, engineer or medic."

Commander Kelly spoke about life in space and what it was like to be an astronaut before taking questions from the audience. He said that the best part of being an astronaut was the fact that it was so challenging: "You are working very hard at being successful and being part of a team. This is something you can all do in your own lives.

"It is important, no matter what, to work hard and prepare yourself for any opportunities in the future," he added.

Talking about the difficulties of living in microgravity, he said: "I always say to children it's like having a bedroom but not being able to put anything on the floor. Even something simple like cleaning your teeth becomes a major challenge."

Commander Kelly said that Earth was his favourite planet and discussing the view of Earth from space, he said: "You really don't see any borders and you get the feeling that we are all citizens of planet Earth."

Asked how he controlled his nerves and whether he was scared when the shuttle took off, he replied: "There's too much to do in the shuttle to be nervous, you're just scared of making a mistake."

Imperials Astro Soc helped to organise Commander Kellys visit

Commander Kelly also joked about the difficulties of landing the shuttle, saying that it has often been compared to flying a drinks machine. Landing was made even worse because "all your friends are watching," he added.

Professor Phillips, who is Chairman of London Gifted and Talented, which brings enrichment activities to gifted and talented schoolchildren including those who attended the event, said of Commander Kelly's visit: "We all need role models. 'Space-explorers' like Kelly occupy the same sort of role as, say, Livingston and Burton did for Victorian children, in that they have to have all of the intrepid bravery of facing danger and the unknown.

"The important difference is that today's explorers also exemplify the huge technological and scientific prowess of mankind; these explorers are not amateurs, but highly professional scientists and engineers, utilising the latest in technology, and hence showcasing it to the world," he added.

Commander Kelly used his visit to launch the Edge into Space competition, which is asking teenagers aged 13 to 17 to come up with a winning idea that could improve life in space or travel to space. A team from each of the nine regions in England will win an educational experience of a lifetime at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and Johnson Space Centre in Houston.

The event was attended by 150 London school students and over 170 Imperial students. Commander Kelly's visit was organised by Imperial Outreach and the College's Astro Soc, in conjunction with the International Space School Educational Trust and Edge. Imperial Outreach encourages students of all ages to participate in science activities, promoting science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects through one day events and summer schools.