Rising stars! Poole pupils chat with NASA engineers and witness historic launch on States space tour

By Daniel Face [email protected]

Published: February 16, 2024 | Updated: 16th February 2024

Four Dorset students were flown out to the US earlier this month for a once-in-a-lifetime ‘space adventure’.

Together they toured the American Space Museum, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and Cape Canaveral Space Force Museum, all the while taking part in discussions with NASA engineers and scientists.

Aspirations Academies Trust logoAnd to cap off the trip, they headed for Cocoa Beach in Florida to witness the historic launch of PACE – a Space X Falcon 9 rocket.

The sixth formers from Budmouth Academy in Weymouth and Magna Academy in Poole – both part of the Aspirations Academies Trust, who covered all expenses – were selected as much for their curiosity and interest as for their academic ability.

Simon Sterland, who co-led the trip, said: “We take students who are going to get something out of the experience, whether that be in terms of their academic or personal development.

“The trip to NASA is often life changing and it’s always unique depending on NASA’s launch services programme.

“We were very fortunate to have witnessed the launch of PACE, especially since its scheduled launch was delayed.”

PACE takes to the skies. Picture: NASA

PACE – short for Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud and ocean Ecosystem – is NASA’s satellite mission to study ocean health, air quality and the effects of a changing climate.

The rocket was successfully launched into orbit on Thursday 8th February at 1:33am EST.

“It was amazing”, said Phoebe, a student at Budmouth Academy.

Budmouth Academy logo“Going down to the beach in the middle of the night, seeing the flashing lights from Cape Canaveral, the sense of expectation… I’ve never been so excited!”

Tyler, a sixth former from Magna Academy, added: “We’d been disappointed when the original launch was postponed but it was well worth the wait.

“When Falcon 9 blasted off it lit up the whole sky. Then shortly after, the sky went black again and all you could hear was the rocket.

Magna Academy logo“It was totally awe inspiring!”

And Oliver, also of Magna Academy, said: “Space exploration has the potential to change our world.

“I’ve learned so much this week – it’s really opened my eyes to the possibilities of a career in space engineering.”

The four Dorset students were joined by another eight from Aspirations academies in west London and Oxfordshire.

Natasha Ullah, executive principal at Magna Academy, said: “We’re really proud of the way Oliver and Tyler represented our school alongside pupils from our sister schools in Aspirations Academies Trust.

“They earned their trip and fully engaged with all the learning opportunities it presented.

“I’m sure it will have a lasting impact.”

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