Local secondary schools had the opportunity to work with NASA record-breaking astronaut, British born Michael Foale, CBE at Cranfield University this weekend

Michael and a team of prize-winning scientists, engineers and NASA leaders ran a Mission:Discovery event for local children aged 14–18 years old. The students working in teams designed a scientific experiment, with the winning team’s design being built and launched to the International Space Station (ISS). Astronauts will then conduct the experiment on behalf of the winning students. 

Michael Foale’s experience of 6 space missions includes him bringing the Hubble Space Telescope back to life, being Commander of the ISS and saving the Russian MIR Space Station as it tumbled out of control around the earth. He said: “Mission: Discovery is a great fun event that brings back to me all the great memories of team work and cool experiences I enjoyed as an astronaut.”

Hosted by Cranfield’s Operations Excellence Institute (OpEx) and developed by Penarth based International Space School Education Trust (ISSET), the aim of Mission:Discovery is to promote scientific understanding, along with personal development skills such as leadership and team building, to the next generation of scientists.

Chris Barber, ISSET Director, commented: “Mission:Discovery gives ordinary young people the chance to do something extraordinary. We are incredibly pleased to be enabling such amazing opportunities for school students. We developed the programme to help young people learn how to be scientifically creative, and to increase their ability to work together. Hopefully the Mission:Discovery students can go on to achieve something that is truly out of this world.”

The weekend included a link-up with Jay Honeycutt, former NASA Kennedy Space Centre Director, he said: “It is ground breaking for young people to work with astronauts and leaders from the human space programme whilst they devise ideas that could be flown on the International Space Station. This innovative programme will help develop the ‘you can do it’ spirit that is so much a part of NASA and human exploration of space."

Over 20 schools from Beds, Bucks and Cambridgeshire participated in the two day event. Dr Paul Jones of Cranfield’s OpEx Institute said: “At Cranfield University we have sought to support schools in key educational priorities and to establish stronger links with higher education through more intensive, creative, challenging and inspirational projects. Mission:Discovery has provided opportunities for invention, building motivation and set high expectations and encouraged the NASA ‘you can do it’ spirit.”

The winning team called ‘Positive Charge’ were Matthew Douse, Thomas Scott and Jamie Heathcote from Shenley Brook School and William Johnson from Wootton Upper School, Milton Keynes, their experiment will be taken to the ISS in November. Ionic liquids in a microgravitational environment, will test how liquids that could be used as lubricants in the vacuum of space, react to other materials in zero gravity. This is an area that has had very little work in space so far and could lead onto more sophisticated mechanisms in space.


Michael Foale CBE
Michael Foale CBE

Notes for editors

Mission:Discovery has already launched experiments from UK school students to the Space Station. In June a further 9 experiments are due to be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  These range from Daphnia (water fleas) in space to potentially open the doors to genetic research in space, to investigating the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and testing the effectiveness of antibiotics in space.

ISSET – International Space School Educational Trust
Founded in 1998 by director Chris Barber, the International Space School Educational Trust is a charity that utilises the themes of space and space exploration to inspire students and teachers. ISSET’s aim is to increase self-belief and motivation through bringing individuals into first hand contact with inspirational personnel at the heart of the human space programme, instill the NASA ‘you can do it’ spirit in our young people and help combat the recent deficit of STEM career interest.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

Cranfield Aerospace

Cranfield is the number one university in Europe for aerospace. We are the only university in Europe to own and run an airport and to have airline status. We have been at the forefront of aerospace technology for 70 years.

As the UK's most business-engaged University, we have long-term relationships and close commercial partnerships with many companies in the sector including Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

Our education, research and consultancy is enhanced by our world-class facilities including the National Flying Laboratory Centre – a unique national asset which provides a hands-on, flying experience, along with flight deck simulators and industrial-scale gas turbine engine test facilities used for performance and diagnostic studies. The Aerospace Integration Research Centre, a £35 million innovative centre built in partnership with Airbus and Rolls-Royce, fosters collaboration between industry and academia. A new £65 million Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre will also be built at Cranfield to spearhead the UK’s research into digital aviation technology.

Notable Cranfield alumni include Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce plc and Ralph Hooper, who attended the College of Aeronautics at Cranfield in 1946 and went on to become one of the UK’s most important post-war aircraft designers, creating the Hawker Harrier jump jet.