Written by: Niharika Bapat, Mark Beecher and Taylor Forbes (Year 10)
Edited by: Ayra Ali (Year 12)
On Tuesday 14th May, a class of 15 Year 10 Astronomy students went to the National Space Centre in Leicester to discover the wonders of Cosmology and space exploration first hand, as part of the GCSE course. The journey there took an hour and fifteen minutes, but it proved to be well worth it.
We took part in a highly interactive and educational astronomy masterclass where we frequently undertook activities.
The professor that led the class showed the students a real hoverboard: a large disc of plastic with a leaf blower attached to it with tape. While not the most reliable or stable contraption, it was strong enough to hover with a person on top of it. When a heavy ball was thrown off of it, it travelled backwards slightly. This demonstration was to show us how rockets fly by looking at the physics behind how they work.
The professor also used chemicals to create a comet. After adding water, carbon, Worcester sauce (for amino acids), and frozen carbon dioxide, a grey rock was left in the bowl. Wearing thermal gloves (the frozen CO2 had cooled the mixture) we could pick up our newly formed comet, and from humble beginnings, a comet was born…
After lunch, we headed towards the galleries. These were also interactive and contained a wide range of topics revolving around astronomy. The activities all fell into three categories: educational, simulation, or entertainment.
One activity tested our reaction times. This was to simulate if you were an astronaut and there was an emergency. Mr Gregory had a whopping score of 49 on level two!
Another activity was purely for entertainment: a program that turned a picture of your face into an alien. You choose the temperature and size of the planet your alien will inhabit, and then take a picture of your face. The conditions upon your chosen planet helped to influence the form factor of your face as it was modified to become more suited to the environment. This helped us understand what kind of traits a creature would have if the climate was different from Earth.
In the planetarium we learned about the animals sent to space: Laika was far from the first dog to ride aboard a Russian rocket. Six years earlier, a pair of dogs named Dezik and Tsygan had reached the cusp of outer space, and since then more than two dozen others had followed. In each case, the Soviets had chosen their test subjects from among Moscow’s strays, on the theory that surviving on the lean streets of the capital was good preparation for the rigours of spaceflight. The dogs had to be small, but not too small, and they had to have brightly coloured coats so that they would show up on film.
The planetarium also helped to provide us with insight into the historical aspects of space exploration such as the first moon landing and animals going to space as part of the research. These animals, including Laika the dog, have been immortalised as they helped refine spacecraft design and the structure of space explorations ever since. You could say the dog did it ‘Laika Boss’.
On behalf of the Y10 astronomy class, we would like to thank Mr Gregory for organising this trip and taking us there. This trip was an unforgettable day of learning and enjoyment which helped to enrich our understanding of Astronomy, STEM subjects and other opportunities for the future; but more importantly helped drive home the message: the future of space travel is in our hands!