Student Story: My NASA Experience

Victoria is an A-Level Physics student at Cherwell College Oxford. Recently she took part in a NASA course, and she has kindly shared her story with us:

This summer I had an AMAZING experience which I decided to share with you. As part of the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, I took part in a residential NASA course at King’s College London. During this course, we did many experiments but at the end of the week, one winning experiment was carried out in space by the NASA astronauts.

One of the experiments we did symbolised a spaceship Mars landing. We were given an egg, an A4 piece of paper, a string, a balloon, and a cup. Our aim was for the egg to survive a drop from a 4-storey building. The best part though was at the end, when we got to throw the eggs, many of which jumped out of the cup and exploded on the ground.

This is a picture taken by The Hubble Telescope from Mars.

The next day, we also got to meet 2 astronauts, Michael Foale and Tony Antonelli, who gave us a speech about their life and how they got into NASA. Quite interestingly, Michael Foale is a British-American astronaut who has been to space 6 times. Before being accepted as an astronaut he applied for that position 3 times. He said that on the 3rd time he was asked the question: “What would you do if you were not accepted as an astronaut?”. He answered that he would move away with his wife to an island and start his own business and would fly himself into space. Both astronauts agreed that if you wish to be an astronaut persistence and passion can get you even into space!

One of the most memorable moments from the course was when we were asked the question, “Do you think it is possible that another intelligent life form is currently looking at the night sky and wondering if there is someone out there?

However, there were many more exciting moments, for example, we were asked to compare the difference in these two pictures:



Picture 1 is London from space and picture 2 is Berlin (where the east and west use two different bulbs).

We also met professors from King’s College who gave us presentations on muscle function and deterioration, pharmacology in space, and the elixir to live forever: doing exercise!

Overall, it was an experience to remember for a long time. It was fun in many ways; we got to meet astronauts; we gained inside knowledge of NASA; we also got to ask questions throughout the course. Some of the questions were: Do astronauts ever take souvenirs from the space station? Can you be religious in space? How do you differentiate the floor and the ceiling?

The answers were that astronauts were not allowed to take pieces of the space station with them to Earth! Although, gifts were exchanged between astronauts. Russian space stations do have icons in one area where astronauts pray. Also, the ceiling is usually painted blue on Russian space stations but US space stations usually don’t differentiate them.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my NASA course experience. Come and find me in school if you have any questions or would like to know further about this programme.