A Career In Space?

Get on your marks for your very own space race, says Rosalind Azouzi
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The Independent Online

If you want to succeed in a career in space, you'll need to be competitive and determined. So, what better way to get some practice in than with these competitions? We've split them into two categories: space for schools and space for students. Read on and get involved!


The EDGE into Space competition was held earlier this year in conjunction with the International Space Education Trust (ISSET). 13- to 17-year-old school pupils were asked to design an invention that could be used in space. More than 4,000 young people entered and 10 winning teams took up their exciting prize in July 2006 - a trip to the NASA Space Centres in Cape Canaveral, Florida and Houston, Texas.

Activities included building and firing hand-made rockets, a visit to the BCC Planetarium and Observatory for a laser star walk and astronaut exercises. There was also time to have dinners with astronauts, rocket scientists and even the former director of the Johnson Space Centre. The next EDGE into Space Competition will run in 2007.

ISSET also run a similar competition for schools in Cardiff. The Step into Space competition is open to pupils in Years 9-12 and offers another exciting opportunity for the winners to visit the Johnson and Kennedy Space Centres and meet astronauts.

Schools can even run a space camp right from the classroom! The ISSET Space Camp programme provides the equivalent of five days of hands-on, multimedia-based student activities designed for the classroom, including "planning a space mission", "rocketry and propulsion" and "living in space". The Space Camp course provides the resources and ISSET advise on grants available for schools who wish to participate. Another organisation, Space4Schools, has many educational resources including displays and interactive workshops.


ESA's annual Student Parabolic Flight competition invites students from the 17 ESA member states to design an experiment for a parabolic flight. This means the zero-gravity conditions in space are reproduced on an ordinary aircraft during a special three-phase manoeuvre that creates a period of weightlessness onboard. The winning teams perform their experiments on a specially equipped Airbus A300, experiencing the kind of weightlessness training that astronauts undergo. Other ESA initiatives include the Young Engineers Satellite project, an opportunity for students, professors and universities to work on spaceflight hardware.

The Department of Space Science of Umeå University and Luleå University of Technology in Kiruna, Sweden, also runs free summer and winter courses for science and engineering students. Located 140 kilometres above the Artic Circle, Kiruna is the ideal location to carry out space-related research. The next winter course will run from 9-12 January 2007. Called "space science and cold phenomena in the Arctic", the course gives students an insight into the space phenomena that can be observed in the Arctic environment during the winter months, such as the aurora borealis and mother of pearl clouds. Places are offered to eligible students on a first-come-first-served basis.

Finally, look out for many ESA and NASA space workshops for students. They can really enhance your understanding of the space industry and are ideal preparation for a career that's out of this world!


* European Space Agency www.esa.int/esaCP/index.html

* NASA Education Website www.education.nasa.gov/home/index.html

* ISSET www.isset.org

* EDGE Foundation www.edge.co.uk

* Space4Schools www.space4schools.co.uk

* Department of Space Science of Umeå University and Luleå University of Technology, Kiruna, Sweden www.ltu-umu.irv.se/sida.asp