Mission Discovery Delhi Team Arrives in India

The team has just arrived in Delhi to carry out a 5 day Mission Discovery (see below) with 230 excited students. The team includes Commander, Steve Swanson, NASA’s Deputy Chief of EVA, Robotics and ISS System Sarah Murray and ISSET Director Chris Barber. These guys are pictured in Agra visiting the Red Fort and the magnificent Taj Mahal, a 15th Century mausoleum designed to house the Mughal Emperor’s favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
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They also went along to meet the ladies of ‘Sheroes’. They have set up a cafe and hang-out for survivors, like themselves of the vicious crime of acid attacks. Such crimes have often been carried out by relatives who the survivors previously thought of as ‘loved-ones’. The ladies seek to raise awareness to stamp out this senseless and unjustifiable brutality towards women and spread a message of hope for future promise to survivors.

Astronaut Steve Swanson, NASA Deputy Chief Sarah Murray and ISSET Director Chris Barber with the inspirational team that run ‘Sheroes’ in Agra

The work of Sheroes supports the women survivors in getting education, work and raising their families. Please take a look at the web site and seriously consider donating to help the women who have suffered front this horrific and unthinkable savagery.
Note: Mission Discovery is a week long programme that enables students to learn directly from astronauts, NASA leaders and world renown scientists. The students work in teams to come up with a design for an experiment to be carried out on the International Space Station by astronauts as they orbit the Earth.

Coming soon: Mission Discovery: Kings College London July 2017 – students are signing up right now, visit our website for more details.


Mission Discovery Experiments to Launch with SpaceX this Friday

This Friday, 5 of our winning Mission Discovery STEM programme experiments will be launched into space aboard SpaceX8, headed to the International Space Station.

The launch is currently set for 4:43 pm EST.

Here are some photos of our students putting together their experiments in the lab:

ISSETs LIVE Link-up with Astronaut Scott Kelly, aboard the International Space Station

Last Wednesday, a sold out audience of 500+ people at the Greenwood Theatre, King’s College London were lucky enough to be part of a live video conference and Q&A with Astronaut Scott Kelly, from aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The momentous evening was hosted by record-breaking Astronaut Mike Foale, along with director and founder of ISSET, Chris Barber and Professor of Human & Applied Physiology at King’s College, London, Steve Harridge. The event was held by ISSET in partnership with Pint of Science and took place during our week long ‘Mission Discovery‘ Space & STEM programme.

ISS Link Up

Chris and Steve opened the night by touching briefly on Chris’ time spent with Scott prior to his launch in March earlier this year. Before long, the nod was given by Houston Mission Control to begin the video link up with the ISS. Scott appeared on screen evoking a roaring applause, but the audience were left hanging in suspense in the following moments as there was no reaction or response from him. Houston, unfortunately, had a problem.

We knew that Scott would be unable to see us on the ISS, but there seemed to be a fault with the sound. After some cutting silence, Scott reached for a second mic and, much to everyones relief, his voice was beamed through to the theatre, receiving an even greater applause. We had made contact with the Space Station. The video conference was now underway and it was a very exciting realisation.


Director of ISSET Chris Barber asked Scott about a conspiracy theory that his twin brother Mark Kelly is actually on the ISS and not him, to which he replied:

“Well Chris…I’m pretty sure it’s me.”

The humour continued throughout the talk. When answering a question about food taste in space, Chris added that Mike Foale had been for a nice dinner earlier that evening, which produced a big smile on Scott’s face.


Many great questions were asked during the evening, but perhaps the most poignant of all was “Has being in space changed your perception of life on Earth?” Scott answered that two things come to mind:

“One that the Earth doesn’t look all that big. There are no political borders that you can see, so it makes it seem like everyone’s kind of a citizen of one planet – planet Earth, versus any particular country. The second thing is that the atmosphere that keeps us alive is actually very thin and should be protected.

The link-up ended in style with Scott somersaulting backwards in the weightless microgravity environment to masses of applause. It was a truly memorable evening for all.

Scott is spending one year in space on the International Space Station. He and Russian astronaut Mikhail Korniyenko have been there since 27 March 2015 and the goal of the year-long expedition aboard the orbiting laboratory is to understand better how the human body reacts and adapts to the harsh environment of space.

You can watch the full video conference below:

Astronaut Leadership Experience… Mission Complete

On May 8th 2014, four teams of 10 students aged 17 – 46 made the wise decision to set out on an ALE (Astronaut Leadership Experience) program in the Lake District over 4 days. Conquering mountain peaks, rock climbs, fast flowing ghylls, building zip wires over 60 meter gorges & orienteering their way through the moors.

ALE students were joined by NASA astronaut Mike Foale who helped lead them through their daily outdoor challenges & gave them inspirational mentoring in the class room by night. Here at ALE we are truly honoured to work Mike Foale, who we regard as one of the space industries heroes, having played a crucial role in saving the MIR space station after a collision in orbit.

We look forward to working with him this summer at Kings College London, for Mission Discovery; http://isset.org/mission_discovery/upcoming/Kings_College/


ALE student taking the plunge…

If you can achieve this, you really can do anything! Abgalabdi Abdi – Coventry University

The best thing I have ever done! Kyle Collins – Milton Keynes

There is no way my wife & kids would believe I could have done anything like this. Thank you! Andy Nyanyo – Coventry University

With the safe return of every member of all teams, the expeditions have successfully completed their missions. Completing each challenge was a goal, but it was never the priority for these role models, and their efforts to inspire themselves and other students to get outside get active, lead their team and chase their dreams which has already had a profound impact on their lives.

The expedition designed, developed and led by ALE (Astronaut Leadership Experience) has inspired a generation of youth to reach their own great heights, not just in the outdoors but also in education & the work place.

The Astronaut Leadership Experience exposes people to the challenges of human survival similar to exploration on a distant planet. A wilderness environment simulates the physical realities associated with establishing and maintaining a human presence where none existed before. Explorers will learn the leadership, team building and communication skills required to conduct complex missions. The challenging environment will enable the explorers to help each other and work as a team in a truly unique situation.” Ken Ham – NASA Astronaut and Space Shuttle Commander

To sign up to our next available program in the Lake District please visit;


Also check out photo’s from this latest ALE program;


About ALE

When NASA forms an astronaut crew they undertake leadership training in remote & wild areas.

ALE has been constructed by astronauts & astronaut trainers, replicating aspects of an astronaut’s team building training to enable you to undergo similar leadership exercises to a NASA space shuttle crew.

Founded in 2009 by Chris Barber, ALE takes students of all ages on remote wilderness expeditions, teaching them fundamental leadership principals.

ALE uses the outdoors to teach students about responsibility for themselves, their team & their surroundings. It is not something that can be taught over a desk or at your morning meeting. On your ALE course you’ll learn how to make decisions, develop confidence, and work through challenges with your team mates. Overall, you’ll work hard, have fun, and return home with leadership skills to last a lifetime.

ALE schools are instructed by outdoor professionals, leadership experts & ex-NASA astronauts. This creates a strong blend of technical skills, teaching abilities & a large range of personal & professional success. In between the outdoor activities will be fun team building challenges, along with evening leadership classes from the resident astronaut. We believe that the key to successful learning is to enjoy what you’re doing, and this is something our instructors work by every day!

We offer courses for large groups that you can join, as well as tailor made courses just for your group. We expect a lot of work from our students & in return we give you fantastic personal rewards for those who want to learn how to lead.

You can book online or give us a call and a member of our team will be happy to help you get the best out of your ALE course.

ISSET & Koichi Wakata

This week kicks off Live from Space season on Channel 4, featuring a series of programmes designed to display what life is really like on board the International Space Station. One of the astronauts featured was Koichi Wakata, who last weekend became the first Japanese International Space Station Commander!

“I am humbled to assume the command of the space station,” Wakata said during the change-of-command ceremony on March 9, “I am very proud as a Japanese to be given this important command. I think that this reflects the real trust toward Japan and what Japan has achieved over the past years.”

ISSET are huge fans of Koichi, primarily because he was the astronaut that carried out our Mission Discovery experiments on the ISS! Watch our Mission Discovery video below from 6.17 to see Koichi perform the experiments (and surf in microgravity using what looks like a huge sheet of paper)!

Live from Space ends this Sunday, so make sure you tune in to find out more about life for an astronaut on the space station! If you’d like to have an ISS commander like Koichi carry out your experiment in space then sign up for Mission Discovery HERE!

Scientists to help out with Mission Discovery’s Daphnia experiment!

Scientists at Birmingham University have heard about our winners of Mission Discovery 2013 at King’s College London, and have offered to lend a hand with their experiments!

The winning team, comprising of students from Ysgol Gyfun Garth Olwg, Tonyrefail and Aberdare, created an experiment that observes the mating habits of Daphnia magna (a type of Cladocera, commonly known as water fleas) under the stress of micro-gravity. The experiment will be launched to the International Space Station later this year!

The exoskeleton of the crustaceans is transparent, which makes it easy to see their organs working as they are studied. What makes these water-fleas so interesting is that they will usually reproduce asexually, similarly to many plants, but in extreme circumstances the female will lay eggs that must be fertilised by the male.

Different life stages of Daphnia magna(embryo, neonate, male, female, ephippium). Image courtesy Kay Van Damme, University of Birmingham, UK

Different life stages of Daphnia magna (embryo, neonate, male, female, ephippium). Image courtesy Kay Van Damme, University of Birmingham, UK

Professor John Colbourne and Kay Van Damme, PhD. both have extensive experience in the field of Daphnia research. Van Damme is an active researcher of Cladocera morphology and biodiversity, and Prof. Colbourne is chair of environmental genomics at Birmingham and an expert on evolutionary biology. He was also a founding member of the Daphnia Genomics Consortium, a mailing list which has over 500 members. The students will be able to acquire further information about their project from the Consortium when necessary, which should be extremely helpful when it comes to preparing the experiments for launch.

This will only be the second time ever that UK schoolchildren’s experiments have been carried out on the ISS. The first launch was all over the national media, with spots on the BBC and ITV. The 2013 winners have already been featured on ITV Wales News, and we’re sure when it comes to the launch there will be a similar level of interest surrounding them! Here’s a clip of the students talking about their experiments;

If you would also like to have your ideas enacted at the forefront of space exploration, you can now sign up for Mission Discovery 2014 here!

Hawking Renames Black Hole; ‘Grey’ Hole?

Stephen Hawking is famous for many things. To say that his theories on black holes have always held a lot of water in the physics community would be an understatement. For example, “Hawking Radiation” revolutionised our understanding of the mysterious voids. But as if they weren’t already difficult enough to understand, the celebrated scientist has now overturned these theories.

How a black hole might look, if it existed, which apparently it doesn’t any more.

A brief/hopefully not too confusing explanation; The event horizon of a black hole is the threshold which, if crossed, sucks the crosser into the black hole and on towards hopeless oblivion (yay). Hawking Radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation that gets released at the event horizon of a black hole. The fact that black holes produce a form of ‘waste’ must mean that they are constantly losing mass, or evaporating. Therefore they will eventually vanish, and like everything else, have an expiry date. This was a large step in combining quantum theory and general relativity, one of the largest unfulfilled goals in physics.

Still there?…Hawking’s new theory means that an object could in theory cross the event horizon and return (still completely scrambled beyond recognition, but the same particles). This goes against the conflicting theories of Einstein, who thought the event horizon could be passed through unnoticed, and Polchinski, creator of the ‘firewall theory’ where objects are incinerated as soon as they cross.

So, if you characterize a black hole by it’s refusal to let light escape, then this new theory that it is possible for anything to escape (albeit a little unrecognisably) from the event horizon of a black hole pretty much means that there are no black holes! However, Hawking can’t deny the presence of some form of mysterious gravitational singularity entirely, and so has come up with ‘apparent horizon’, a threshold that merely suspends light before releasing it once more. This renders the once menacing BLACK hole a slightly more ambivalent grey.

The fuss surrounding the revelation begs the question; when can we prove any of these quantum theories? Hopefully, with the current government emphasis on STEM & space industry careers, and programmes such as ISSET’s Mission Discovery encouraging space interest in young scientists, the answers will be coming soon!