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Mission X London 2012 International Event

1 May 2012

Budding astronauts from across the world landed in London last week for the closing event of Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut. The UK Space Agency hosted the international visitors for three days of space, fitness and nutrition educational activities from 26-28 April.

Mission X was designed by NASA to encourage school students between 8 and 12 years old to be more physically active. It uses astronaut training to teach how good food and exercise play an important role in human performance in space and on the Earth.

Delegates from 10 of the 16 countries that have organised a Mission X educational programme arrived in the UK on 26 April and launched into a science packed programme.

The visitors became astronomers at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge using telescopes to explore the moon. Here the students learned about what it would be like to visit each of the planets in the Solar System as future astronauts. At the Royal Observatory, Greenwich they looked even deeper into the Universe.

European Space Agency Astronaut (ESA) Paolo Nespoli joined more than 100 international and UK students for the Mission X Games. After an inspiring trip to see the Olympic site from the John Lewis viewing gallery the students hopped, skipped and jumped across to Cumberland School, an Olympic training site in Newham, where they took part in some of the challenges that made up the six weeks astronaut training programme.

Paolo and the kids trained for spaceflight by doing crew strength training and astronaut agility courses. They also launched rockets and learned about space food and nutrition. The programme integrates a whole range of physical activities targeting strength, endurance, coordination, balance and spatial awareness while also exploring the science behind space travel.

John Bradshaw, Head Teacher at Cumberland School said:

“Mission X has brought together two very important things – science and sport. By hosting the Mission X Games we hope the children will be enthused by the possibilities of the future.”

Three elite athletes joined Paolo, encouraging and talking to the kids about keeping fit and healthy. There were even fierce competitions between athletes and astronaut.

Montell Douglas, the current UK 100m record holder, Rebecca Humphreys, under 23 rower for Great Britain and Andre Fernandez, one of top long jumpers in the UK expressed how impressed they were with the global reach of the programme and the dedication of the children taking part.

Paolo rounded the event off with a talk at the Aeronautical Society on Saturday about his experiences living and working on the International Space Station.

Jeremy Curtis, Head of Education, Outreach and Skills at the UK Space Agency and coordinator or Mission X UK said:

“The UK Space Agency is proud to be able to bring together people in the internationally cooperative spirit of space and sport to celebrate the achievements of Mission X 2012. We are looking forward to more UK schools getting involved in the Mission X challenges next year as part of our education programme to use space to inspire learning.’

I work in space

Ian Whittaker I work as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Otago.

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