Local students take part in Mission Discovery event in London
A group of students from Rhondda Cynon Taf are about to have an ‘out-of-this-world’ experience - by having their experiment built, launched into space and taken to the International Space Station!
Selected to take part in the Mission Discovery event in London, they worked alongside NASA astronauts - the only Welsh students at the conference - and they went on to out-perform the best in the UK.
Mission Discovery gives young people from ‘ordinary’ backgrounds the opportunity to do something ‘extraordinary’ - to meet many other like-minded students from across the UK, work with NASA astronauts, astronaut trainers and the very best UK space physiologists.
The ultimate aim was to have their own experiment accepted and flown into space - a truly unique experience!
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council selected 20 of its high-achieving students, all with a keen interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, to represent the County Borough at King’s College, London.
Held at one of the Top 30 universities in the world, with one of the largest medical schools in Europe, Mission Discovery was a week-long experience that the students will never forget.
The main themes of the event was learning about the effects of space flight on human physiology and the details of biomedical research taking place on the International Space Station to improve life for those on our planet.
All the participants, around 200 keen and able young scientists, many from prestigious English schools, were placed in teams and their ‘mission’ over the week was to compete in translating these learning experiences into an idea for a biomedical experiment to be built and flown into space to the International Space Station on a Space X rocket next year.
Contributors to the week included Ken Ham, NASA astronaut and Space Shuttle Commander; Chris Barber, space educationalist and founder of the International Space School Educational Trust; Jay Honeycutt, former director of the Kennedy Space Centre, and Professors Steve Harridge and Thais Russomano, experts in space physiology at King’s College.
The students were taught all about a Space Shuttle mission, from take-off to landing, and also about how the human body adapts to weightlessness. They also explored how space research can improve life on Planet Earth while each team worked together to develop their own idea for the experiment to be flown in space.
Their evenings were spent on sight-seeing trips around London, a visit to the House of Commons and also dinner with the NASA astronauts.
On day four, all the teams who took part submitted their ideas to a prestigious panel of judges, and on the final day teams were asked to make a presentation highlighting why their idea should be chosen to go into space.
Of the final six teams from around the UK, three of them were from Rhondda Cynon Taf.
The eventual winners were Liam Collins-Jones, Rhiannydd Thomas, Sion Phillips, Trystan Gruffydd (Garth Olwg); Georgia Bailey (Tonyrefail Comprehensive School); and Ieuan Williams (Aberdare High School).
The winning team can now look forward to supporting the building of their experimental idea - an investigation into the influence of weightlessness on the physiology of Daphnia.
Cllr Eudine Hanagan, Cabinet Member of Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, said: “To have an experiment by Rhondda Cynon Taf students actually approved and going into space with NASA astronauts to the International Space Station is a huge achievement.
“Upon starting their new academic year at school this week, the whole group can reflect on the great credit they have brought to themselves and to the County Borough this summer.
“As well as broadening their experiences, they have also learned how to be a part of a great team and how to fulfil their dreams and ambitions. They really have been reaching for the stars - quite literally!
“These students have achieved something extraordinary and have demonstrated to all the other students from our communities that with hard work and a confident approach, they to can be among the very best in the UK.”