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.
IMG_4312 - Copy.JPG
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.


India launches probe to Mars!

Earlier this week India launched the Mangalyaan probe to Mars, becoming only the fourth country ever to do so!

The Mangalyaan mission ran for less than $73 million and has been a success so far. Susmita Mohanty of Earth2Orbit said that the low price has been an “eye-opener of sorts” for the rest of the world. If successful, seeing the low budget that projects like this can run on may inspire NASA and other countries to pump more funding into their space programmes (The US counterpart due to launch on the 18th of November cost almost 10 times as much!) The vessel will reach Mars on Sept 24, orbiting the planet to scan for methane, a gas believed to indicate presence of Martian life forms.

Indian scientists and astrophysicists working on the Mangalyaan.

ISSET have done a lot of work with Indian groups in the past who are interested in space exploration. Chris has escorted groups to the USA as part of our Space Centre Experience programme. He has also run several Space Camps in Indian schools. As a result, Chris was presented with a golden scale replica of the Chandrayaan-1 by ISRO director K. Radhakrishnan for his work with space education. The Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first unmanned lunar probe, and managed to discover water on the moon, ensuring that other countries took India’s space programme seriously.

Chris and astronaut trainer Michelle Ham before Space Camp in India, 2011.

Chris and astronaut trainer Michelle Ham before Space Camp in India, 2011.

Despite the low cost of the launch, India are still being chastised by some for spending any money at all on the space programme, as there is a high percentage of Indians living in poverty. But it is also worth noting that due to help from the space programme satellites, the loss of lives in the recent cyclone Phanini was limited to 44 and almost a million people were saved by prior evacuation. They also provide information to the agricultural industries on tide and weather changes, and are of help to ships and vessels near the coast.

In the eyes of global politics, India is still considered a ‘developing nation’. But the nature of development is elusive and not immediate; projects like the mission to Mars will inspire thousands of children to become scientists across India, scientists who could potentially cure many of the ailments the inhabitants face every day. It is important that missions like the Mangalyaan mission go ahead, as they are symbols of hope for the future.

A golden scale replica of the Chandrayaan -1, presented to Chris by the Director of the Indian Space Research Organisation, K. Radhakrishnan.

A golden scale replica of the Chandrayaan -1, presented to Chris by the Director of the Indian Space Research Organisation, K. Radhakrishnan.

Professor Jitendra Goswami, director of the Physical Research Laboratory believes that “if the Mars mission is successful, every Indian child, whether in a village in Assam or on the streets of Delhi, can look up into the night sky and, when they catch a glimpse of the red glimmer of Mars, will know their country has been there.” The ethic behind this statement is similar to that of our Message to the Moon programme; India’s voyage to Mars plans to inspire a whole nation of children by showing them that they can be a part of space exploration.

Space Centre Experience – Florida & Washington

18th – 30th October 2012


The group at KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building

This week Chris is away on the experience of a lifetime combining NASA Space Centre Experiences in Florida and Washington, a first for our group of student explorers from India.

Florida’s Famous Cocoa Beach

Touching down in Florida, the group’s first port of call was the famous Cocoa Beach, home to the world’s largest surf shop and the long, sandy shores which provide the perfect place to sit back and relax in the sunshine after a long and tiring flight. In 86°F/30°C heat; the students have also taken a liking to relaxing in La Quinta Inn’s refreshing pool, which just happens to be the first historic location they will visit during their stay. The hotel was formerly owned by the Seven Original Astronauts who set off from Kennedy Space Centre in 1963 for Mercury 7 – the United States’ first manned spaceflight project.

The Seven Original Astronauts; Scott M. Carpenter, Gordon L. Cooper, Jr., John H. Glenn, Virgil I ‘Gus’ Grissom, Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Alan B. Shepard, and Donald K. ‘Deke’ Slayton

From following in the original astronauts’ footsteps, to eating with America’s most recent esteemed NASA astronauts, Chris and the gang have sat down for dinner and a chinwag with some huge names so far. Former astronauts Mike McCulley and Ken Cameron entertained with stories from their exciting careers with NASA and what their work entailed; whilst former director of the Kennedy Space Centre, Jay Honeycutt, described the group as “fine young people, the brightest young students I’ve ever met.” The students greatly enjoyed meeting the astronauts, and having the amazing opportunity to have a personal conversation with people of such stature and eminence in the world human space programme.

NASA Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

The Indian students were just as complimentary, when asked what they thought of their experience so far, described it as “amazing” and “awesome.” They are finding life in America quite different to that of home, which in itself is a learning curve, as they are noticing some cultural differences between life in the two countries; such as differences in driving and road systems.

Also on the scene was rocket scientist Kevin Mellett, who joined Chris for a delightful dinner at Port Canaveral’s waterfront seafood restaurant, ‘Fish Lips.’

Port Canaveral

A take-off at Cape Canaveral

 Astronauts to giant rockets, a tour of Cape Canaveral was next on the agenda, where we explored the legendary launch pads that first sent humans into space and that still sends probes into our solar system. This momentous site is responsible for many ‘firsts’ in the space exploration programme and provided an exciting opportunity to indulge in a slice of history; the inquisitive students learnt about the Apollo 1 tragedy, the different significant launch pads and the running of a site at the forefront of rocket development.

One such rocket being the Saturn V, which at 300 feet long, is the largest object to have left the surface of the Earth.

The massive Saturn V rocket

A week into their trip so far, highlights include a thrilling ride in the shuttle launch simulator, discovering all the ins and outs of shuttle construction at the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy, and finally getting the chance to check out the deals at Wal-Mart!

The group also got the chance to meet Dr Jaydeep Mukherjee, the director of the NASA Space Grant Consortium at the University of Central Florida. The Consortium, founded in 1989, is a network of colleges and universities across the state that supports the expansion and diversification of Florida’s space industry through grants, scholarships, and fellowships to students and education. Dr Mukherjee talked to the students about how to make something of themselves with a career in space and scientific research in both the US and India.

Dr Jaydeep Mukherjee giving a talk about space and scientific research

Shirish Patel, a NASA rocket engineer who has worked on projects for the International Space Station, also gave an inspirational talk on how to become a rocket engineer or scientist for world space agencies.

Shirish Patel – NASA rocket engineer & supporter of commercial spaceflight

But there’s still plenty more to come, including a visit to Sea World and an almighty storm, so stay tuned for week two of their American adventure in Washington…