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“I appreciated that many people who are isolated in their homes may be needed inspiration and motivation to use this time to plan for a better future. ”

Chris Barber: Director of ISSET and Space, Science and Leadership Professional
Dear me,

Dear me,

I am here in south Wales during the great COVID-19 pandemic and crisis of 2020. This has resulted in a mass lockdown of services and overall lifestyles. Something like 60,000 people in the UK have lost their lives to the disease. Many people have lost their livelihoods and others have simply had their work and income cancelled or postponed. Schools have been closed and movement outside of our houses has been severely restricted.  Seeing family and friends has been outlawed.

My line of work involves working largely with astronauts, others from the space industries and a large range of scientists. I appreciated that many people who are isolated in their homes may be needed inspiration and motivation to use this time to plan for a better future. As a contribution I organised a set of virtual presentations from astronauts that were structured to relate their experience of being isolated in space with a small team to the experience of boys girls and their families during the current lockdown crisis.

Astronauts are a great group to provide inspiration as to many people they represent the pinnacle of human achievement.  For young people they rank alongside sports and movie star stars, except that the astronauts achieved their places through education and technological achievement.

A great start for the presentations has been the astronauts having to undergo quarantine prior to stepping forth on their great adventure of launching from our planet and travelling to outer space. The presentations all contained a mixture of imagery and stories of space travel mixed with the steps and attitudes that the astronauts took and developed to be successful.

Each of the presentations had a particular theme. The themes of the initial presentations were what does it take to become the Commander of the International Space Station and or become the pilot of a spaceship. We moved into the themes of how beautiful our planet is when seen from space and how fragile it appears when looking at the tiny layer that is our atmosphere and the environment we need to survive. Some of the astronauts believe that we are the global crew Of spaceship Earth and the theme is that we should work together to take care of our spaceship and ensure that it is a fit place for all of our crew mates. 

We have course took on the theme of ‘what is really out there’ and how we are seeking to discover more about mysteries of our universe such as what are dark and antimatter. The astronauts took us through how our bodies react to the loss of gravitational effects in space and what we can learn from this to help us look after ourselves better on Earth. The final themes focused on being able to work together with people from different backgrounds and cultures in the confinement of a spaceship and the task of building a home in space or in any other unforgiving environment.

The overall theme of the program was to give our young people and their families the ‘NASA you can do it’ spirit that is so much a part of making the most of opportunities. It should be added that we all had a lot of fun enjoyment and laughter while making the presentations. We loved answering the questions that came from young people from all over the world and are pleased to have contributed to making confinement and isolation more enjoyable and giving the sense of purpose that we can all make things better when the lockdown finishes.