"Houston, we have a teenager"

East End students on a mission to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) as part of UK science initiative

Four London teenagers are off to meet NASA leaders at the Houston and Kennedy Space Centres after winning a competition to become the UK’s first Creative Space Scholars, in a programme to encourage a new ‘space generation’ interested in science and technology.

The Tower Hamlets teenagers, fifteen year olds Leonie Sinden, Lincoln Benjamin, Farjana Aktar and Patrick Kavanagh, all from Morpeth School were selected for the prize having completed a number of challenges as part of the Ideas Foundation Creative Space programme: a new initiative to foster creativity in science from the charity, which supports inner city young people.

The challenges included The Case For Space challenge set by the Parliamentary Space Committee; the Cassini – Be a Scientist for a Day Challenge set by Professor Murray at Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL) and NASA, and Mars: Why, How and When, set by Piers Sellers and the British Interplanetary Society. The students also had to complete a Postcard into space for a project set by Per Wimmer, a private space explorer.

The adventures in space culminated in an intensive space school led by Professor Carl Murray at QMUL, who briefed students on the historic discoveries of new moons. The students then had the opportunity to discover the moons for themselves, working directly with mission planners and scientists during the process.

The star-gazing students will travel to NASA’s Houston and Kennedy Space Centres with the award-winning International Space School Education Trust (ISSET) in October. During a packed programme they will have an opportunity to present their ideas and work to leaders at NASA and to British born astronaut Piers Sellers who has been supporting the students during the Ideas Foundation programme.

Chris Barber, from ISSET says: “We are absolutely delighted to give these young people from Tower Hamlets, the life enhancing experience of working with people at the heart of the human space exploration – the biggest science and technology programme in the world.”

Heather MacRae from the Ideas Foundation says: “The students from Morpeth School were inspiring to work with. They were committed and creative and impressed our panel experts with their enthusiasm and knowledge.”

Helen Wright, Deputy Head at Morpeth School says: “We are proud of our students who have been inspired by this programme and who are also sharing their enthusiasm with others.”

Piers Sellers, British born NASA Astronaut says: “These kids will see some amazing space voyages during their lifetimes. During the next 50 years we should see robots exploring all parts of the solar system, and humans visiting the moon, Mars and perhaps the moons of Saturn and Jupiter”.

Professor Carl Murray at Queen Mary, University of London, says:” Everyone here is delighted with the programme’s success. I think the kids really enjoyed it too, having direct contact with the mission planners and scientists.”

Dr Robin Clegg, Head of the Science in Society programme for STFC, said “The Council is delighted to be supporting this project linking young people with the inspiration of space research and with British space scientists. The Cassini/Huygens mission is still providing exciting results and images, and it’s good to see young people’s creativity drawn out through this.”

Robin Wight, Chairman of WCRS Advertising and founder of the Ideas Foundation says “This programme has provided an out of this world experience for young people and really helped them to see the beauty and creativity within the world of science.”

Patrick Kavanagh, one of the founder creative space scholars says: “I cannot thank the Ideas Foundation enough for this opportunity. I’m over the MOON about it (I know its a cheesy line but I’m excited). I’m still in shock and can’t believe it – my first time going to America and what a way to go!!!”

The programme has been funded through the Royal Aeronautical Society, Sir John Cass Foundation and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.