Space School celebrates 30 years since launch

Space School UK is celebrating its 30th anniversary in July 2019, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landings.

Space School UK is a residential summer school, held at the University of Leicester, for young people aged 13-18 with an interest in all things space, from astronomy to planetary science and engineering to space medicine.

During the three week-long residential, students get the opportunity to hear lectures from space professionals and get hands on with laboratory experiments. Students also complete “astronaut training” through indoor skydiving and scuba diving challenges, compete in a rocketry competition, camp out under the stars, and visit the National Space Centre in Leicester.

Space School UK was founded in 1989 to support sixth form students in their space careers. In its first year, Sevenoaks School hosted 120 aspiring young space professionals from all over the UK in July 1989. In 1990, Space School moved to Brunel University, opening its doors to younger students, aged 13-15. In 2000, Space School UK moved to the University of Leicester, where it has been held ever since.

The University of Leicester now sees 180 young people visit the Department of Physics and Astronomy every year, across three week-long summer schools. Leicester is a natural home for Space School UK as a city already recognised as a leader for space innovation. Space Park Leicester, a new hub for space activities in the UK, will be in construction from the end of 2019, and Space School UK is looking forward to giving students experience of the space industry when the Space Park opens.

Dr Tracey Dickens, the Director of Space School UK, said: “This year marks the 30th anniversary of Space School UK, and the University of Leicester will be home to 180 future astronauts, engineers, space scientists, and those who just have a love of space. As we look back at the Apollo 11 Moon landings that happened 50 years ago, we are looking to the future. We know that our students are the future of the space industry - many of our alumni already work in organisations such as the European Space Agency and the UK Space Agency.

“This year we are pleased to welcome leading space companies Lockheed Martin UK, Virgin Galactic, and The Air League as sponsors of scholarships for students across all three weeks of Space School UK.

“Spending a ‘week in space’ gives students the platform to meet professionals working in the field, and stretch their understanding of space and future career paths. Space School UK is a fantastic opportunity for young scientists to fully immerse themselves in a topic they love, and to build friendships which will last them a lifetime.”

Mentors at Space School UK have all been students there multiple times themselves and all work or study in the space sector. Heidi Thiemann, Senior Mentor and alumna of the University of Leicester said: “Attending Space School UK at a teenager gave me the push to follow my dream of working in the space industry. I have fond memories of spending summer building rockets and getting stuck into lectures and astronomy. Now, as a mentor at Space School UK, I love encouraging young people to follow their space dreams.”

Over 30 years, Space School UK has seen over 3,000 students pass through its doors. Space School UK’s alumni range from Libby Jackson, Manager of Human Spaceflight at the UK Space Agency, to Dr Rhaana Starling, Associate Professor in Astrophysics at the University of Leicester. There are many space professionals in the UK’s space industry who can trace their inspiration back to Space School UK. It continues to ensure that there is a steady flow of talent joining the UK space industry.

Registration for Space School UK 2020 opens in August 2019.