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Excited schoolchildren from St Mary and St Andrew's Catholic Primary School meet astronaut Helen Sharman OBE from l-r James, Sebastian, Helen Sharman, Izzy and Bryony. Credit: NASA

Schoolchildren enjoy a visit to UCLan to hear from the first British person to visit space

Schoolchildren from across Lancashire have been treated to an extra special space lesson from the first British person to visit space.

Around 400 pupils and 50 teachers packed into the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), in Preston, to listen to astronaut Helen Sharman OBE discuss her eight days on board the MIR Space Station in May 1991.

The chemist told the Year 6 children, who came from ten primary schools across the county, about her life before being an astronaut, her training in Russia, the lift-off and her role on the space station. She also explained what food and drink she consumed and spoke about her space suit. The children also took part in a question and answer session.

Helen said: “The buzz from the children was incredible and I know they love to hear about space and what it involves. What I also came to do is inspire them to take an interest in science and space. If one child from this group decides they want to study science as a future career then that’s great because it’s a job with endless possibilities.”

If one child from this group decides they want to study science as a future career then that’s great because it’s a job with endless possibilities

The UCLan Lancashire Science Festival fringe event was organised by Christian Duckworth, a teacher at Barton’s St Mary and St Andrew's Catholic Primary School. On the back of pupils’ interest in Tim Peake’s journey into space, and after hearing Helen speak at an event, she thought it would be inspirational for the children. Christian said: “It’s been very exciting and it’s been a unique opportunity for all the children to meet and listen to stories from a real astronaut.”

Nathaniel Charnock, from Blackburn’s Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, said: “I really enjoyed seeing the photos and meeting the first British person to go into space.”

His classmate Nabaa Almitwally added: “I was really interested to find out what her experience of space was like, especially those first moment.”

The local schools who attended were: English Martyrs Catholic Primary School; Freckleton C of E Primary School; Baines Endowed VC Primary School; St Kentigern's Primary School, in Blackpool; Stonyhurst St Mary's Hall; Westholme School, in Blackburn; Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, in Blackburn; AKS Lytham and St Pius X, in Preston.


Helen Sharman, the first British to travel to space, talking to schoolchildren at the University of Central Lancashire.

Rachel Atkinson | 21 April 2016