Astronaut Visit: Ken Bowersox – October 2015

This October, ISSET will be bringing American NASA Astronaut Ken Bowersox to the United Kingdom.


Ken is a NASA Astronaut with experience of five Space Shuttle Missions, two as Commander and a long duration space mission as the Commander of the International Space Station.

An Evening with Ken Bowersox will be taking place on the 15th October in association with our partners ‘Pint of Science’. This event is a chance to come and hear all about space missions with a real NASA astronaut and a former Director of Kennedy Space Center, Jay Honeycutt. The evening will also include some exciting presentations from lecturers at King’s College, London. Professor Steve Harridge will be teaching us about ‘The effect of Space travel on muscles’ and Dr. Julie Keeble will be filling us in on the topic of ‘Student experiments on the International Space Station’. Tickets can be purchased at this link.

Ken will also be leading the Astronaut Leadership Experience Programme in the Lake District as part of his visit. This programme is taking place on 16th – 18th October, 2015. You can sign up here for this programme.


NASA Astronaut Visit – Mike Foale – March 2015

In March 2015, ISSET will be bringing former NASA Astronaut and International Space Station Commander Mike Foale to the United Kingdom once more.

NASA Astronaut Mike Foale at UK School

Mike is the most experienced British born astronaut in the history of human space travel having flown on 6 Space Shuttle missions, a Soyuz and commanded the International Space Stations. He was the first Briton to perform a spacewalk, during which he saved the Hubble Space Telescope.

During his visit, Mike will inspire and motivate people across the UK. He will also lead the Astronaut Leadership Experience Programme in the Lake District 5th – 8th March, 2015 – You can view further details and sign up for this programme at our website.

ISSET invites astronaut Ron Garan to the UK for World Space Week

Over the next two weeks, we are delighted to host astronaut Ron Garan in the United Kingdom. Ron is also a social entrepreneur.


If you do not get the opportunity to meet the whilst he is in Britain, then you may wish to watch the video below. The video features Ron together with other space shuttle and lunar astronauts. The video shows some amazing footage of the Earth from space and touches on many significant aspects of environmental concern and international cooperation. It also gives an insight into how Ron is in a unique position as an environmental and social ambassador.

I first met Ron in 2008 when he took part in our hosting of the STS 124 astronaut crew tour of the United Kingdom. This tour visited England and Wales and Northern Ireland. In fact, the crew were the guests of honour at the inaugural event at the then brand new Titanic Dock Exhibition Centre

In this visit, Ron will inspire and motivate young people in Nottingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and London. He will also lead the Astronaut Leadership Experience Programme in the Lake District from the 8th to 12 October. It may still be possible to participate in this programme. Please see for details.

Brief Biography;

Ron is a former astronaut who has carried out Missions on the Space shuttle, the Russian Soyuz and long duration space flight on the International Space Station; he is space walker, former test pilot and Colonel in the US Airforce. Ron flew on both the US Space Shuttle spacecraft.

Ron is now:

  • An environmental entrepreneur, his work includes providing wells in drought and poverty struck areas of the world, especially in Africa
  • He is a speaker at the World Economic Forum at Davos,
  • His company is the first organisation in the world to successfully register a United Nations Clean Development Mechanism carbon credit program for water treatment,
  • He is the technical and scientific advisor to the Social Business movement, its founder Nobel Peace Laureate Mohammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank that funds entrepreneurs who are too poor to qualify for normal bank loans, through this programme he has worked with most of the CEO’s of the ‘Fortune 500’ companies, he has been assigned to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID),
  • He was in charge of NASA’s Open Government and Social Media Initiative
  • He is the Founder of ‘Fragile Oasis’
  • He has 3.5 million social media following which ranks him in Google’s top 25 most followed people.

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;


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 and Doctor Who

As many will know, tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the much loved British television series, Doctor Who. ISSET has many connections with Doctor Who, the biggest of which being the educational programme which almost was.


NASA astronaut Michael Foale and his wife Rhonda are both huge Doctor Who fans, and as such, due to his work with ISSET Director Chris Barber, a unique programme almost came to fruition.

The plan was an educational programme called Science Fiction meets Science Fact. The hope of the programme was to get those who are interested in science fiction shows, like Doctor Who, more interested in the fact behind the aforementioned fiction. Mike was exceptionally keen for the programme to come to life, as he personally knows many individuals whose interest in Doctor Who sparked an interest in science and in turn lead to long and successful careers in various scientific fields. Unfortunately the BBC cancelled the programme as they did not want to overlap their fictional programmes with their factual programmes.

Recently, while Mike and Rhonda were in the UK at the Message to the Moon Launch Day and the Astronaut Leadership Experience in the Lake District, they had a unique opportunity of a VIP Dr Who tour, visiting many of the sites well known to Doctor Who fans in the area of South Wales.


Rhonda Foale, on the ALE programme.

Sun’s magnetic field to flip?!

Sorry for the dramatic title…it isn’t as apocalyptic as it sounds. Here’s why.

In the next few weeks, the sun will switch it’s polarity, which happens every 11 or so years. Many of us will have lived through a couple of these flips without even noticing, so it isn’t a dangerous phenomenon. In fact scientists say that it’s quite the opposite.

Diagram of Sun’s magnetic field.

Surrounding the sun and cloaking our solar system is the heliospheric current sheet. This works as a force-field, protecting us from particles shot at us by supernovas and other explosions out in space. In the act of switching the magnetic poles, the sheet will become temporarily wavy and corrugated, making it a better shield against the particles.

Also, the heightened solar activity that the flip will collide with is going to mean higher visibility for Northern Lights observers. This will be great for our Astronaut Leadership Experience trip to the Arctic with astronaut Ken Ham in February!

Northern Lights over Tromsø

NASA’s unmanned Voyager spacecraft is on the way to the edge of the solar system, and on it’s way hopefully will be able to catch a glimpse of the wavy sheet as it ripples through the universe.

Artist’s conception of what the heliospheric current sheet will do when the sun’s magnetic field flips!

On the downside, there will probably be some minor geomagnetic storms, which will cause some radio blackouts and satellite interference. But on the whole, unless you come with us to see the beautiful, extra-bright Aurora Borealis in the Arctic, you won’t even notice the change!

NASA’s Maven Launch & the Aurora

Yesterday, NASA’s Maven mission launched on a 10 month journey to join the Curiosity Rover on Mars! The purpose of the expedition is for NASA to build on evidence that Mars was once hospitable. Recent Curiosity discoveries of rock erosion prove that streams must have once flowed on the planet.

NASA’s Maven Orbiter.

The primary theory on Mars’ decline is that around 4 billion years ago, the planet lost it’s magnetic field due to a large asteroid impact. The field was a protective shield from corrosive solar winds, and as a result of it’s loss, layers of the Martian atmosphere were stripped away including any possible life. Maven intends on monitoring the rate that the atmosphere is deteriorating, and hopefully work out how long ago the possible asteroid impact occurred.

The mission will also give us an insight into how to stop the same happening to earth. Maven could help prevent a similar disaster happening to Earth by showing us what could actually happen if we don’t act now. With the current state of our atmosphere due to greenhouse gasses and CO2 emissions, if we don’t do something about the environment soon, then we may well end up in the same position as Mars.

We will be visiting the beautiful Aurora Borealis as part of our Astronaut Leadership Experience in February 2014, click here to join us!

Another (slightly less morbid) objective of the Maven expedition is to capture images of the auroras on Mars. Mars has small localised magnetic fields, probably remnants of the original magnetic field that managed to survive the asteroid impact. Similarly to the Arctic on earth, the aurora is only visible in certain areas of Mars. Whereas the strongest parts of earth’s magnetic field are the North and South poles, Mars’ fragmented field means that the aurora is much fainter and more spread out.

We also plan on observing an Aurora, but rather than risk the 225,000km journey to Mars, we’ll be visiting the Arctic in February 2014 as part of the Astronaut Leadership Experience. February will offer the perfect conditions to experience the Aurora Borealis in all its glory. The Northern Light Belt hits Norway in Lofoten, where we will be staying. There is no other place on earth where you will stand a better chance of witnessing the lights!

Participants will also gain new leadership techniques and team-work skills with the help and guidance of astronaut Ken Ham. Outdoor leadership courses are a vital part of an astronaut’s training, as they are required to remain calm and focused in the face of adversity, and maintain clear judgement during any group decision. Our Lake District ALE was described by record-breaking NASA astronaut Michael Foale as the most similar experience to Russian space training that he had ever encountered (this will be running again with Michael in March 2014, head here for more details!)