Major space education programme returns to Ayrshire

Mission Discovery, a week-long space school that gives Ayrshire youngsters the opportunity to work alongside NASA leaders, will take place from 11-15 June at Ayrshire College’s Kilmarnock Campus.

The announcement that the International Space School Educational Trust’s (ISSET) Mission Discovery programme will return to Ayrshire this summer was made at a special launch event held at the college.

Two hundred secondary school pupils will work in teams this summer to design space experiments. The winning idea will be sent to space where it will be tested by NASA astronauts.

The Mission Discovery programme first came to Ayrshire in 2016. The first winners created an experiment that looked at the speed of slime mould on different materials in space. Last year’s winners presented their idea that observes ‘the photosynthesis of phytoplankton in microgravity and the generation of electricity’.

Both winning experiments were sent to the International Space Station shortly after the Mission Discovery week at the college.

This year, NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen – who has been on three spaceflights – will be involved in the Ayrshire programme for the first time.

Ayrshire residents will have the chance to meet and have their photograph taken with the astronaut at a special evening event organised by Ayrshire College, as part of Mission Discovery week.

The Ayrshire College Foundation is the main sponsor of Mission Discovery Ayrshire 2018. Local aeronautical businesses, NATS and the Glasgow Prestwick Spaceport, are sponsoring part of the week, and East, North and South Ayrshire councils are also sponsors.

The Ayrshire College Foundation was set up to advance education by providing financial support for projects and activities involving Ayrshire College.

Heather Dunk, Principal of Ayrshire College, said “We are thrilled that Mission Discovery will return to Ayrshire this summer. The programme is a tremendous experience for young people, giving them a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with an astronaut and NASA leaders on a live space project.

“I have no doubt that this year will once again be a spectacular event and I would like to thank the Ayrshire College Foundation, Glasgow Prestwick Spaceport, NATS and the three Ayrshire councils for sponsoring Mission Discovery Ayrshire 2018.”

A competition was organised for Ayrshire primary schools to design a Mission Patch for Mission Discovery Ayrshire 2018.

Eight-year-old Eilidh Cooke of Annanhill Primary School won with her half-Mars, half-Earth design, which will be used throughout the week and which will accompany the winning experiment on its journey to the International Space Station in 2018.

Caitie MacArthur, 11, of Whiting Bay Primary School, and Heather McRonald, 11, of Alloway Primary School were runners-up. All three of their schools will receive a prize of £1,000 to be used for STEM activities.

The 2018 Mission Discovery programme kicks off on Monday 11 June with a taster day at the college’s Kilwinning Campus for S2 and S3 pupils from schools across Ayrshire.

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