30 March 2016

Loughborough College space engineering students talked to British astronaut Tim Peake in the first live broadcast conversation with him since he began his mission on the International Space Station more than 100 days ago.

In this historic exchange, with ‘Houston’ overseeing communications , the college’s students were given the opportunity to ask Britain’s first official astronaut questions live from the Sky News studio as he orbited the earth.

Loughborough College has established a unique programme, in association with the National Space Academy, pioneering space engineering for 16 to 18 year olds and students joined Sky News in London and at the National Space Centre in Leicester for the real-time link up with the ISS.

With the words, “Station, this is Sky News. How do you hear me?” the historic conversation began.

Richard Jones asked about the six years of training and the preparation for microgravity and as the British astronaut talked about how his brain had got used to working in any orientation the space engineering student’s question prompted Tim Peake to answer upside down.

Emily Bradley demonstrated an experiment in the studio while Tim Peake showed how different the same experiment looked in microgravity and she also asked about establishing a moon colony and eventually one on Mars.

The former British army pilot suggested the ISS was a benchmark and explained how he hoped to see the Moon as the next destination, and as a stepping stone to Mars in the future.

Loughborough College space student David Thomson wanted to know about the impact of the more than 250 experiments the British astronaut is set to do during his six months on the ISS – and heard about a huge range of investigations and their potential outcomes on everything from making metals stronger and lighter to improving the effectiveness of our medical treatments.

After half an hour a voice announced, “Station this is Houston, we are now returning to operational communications.”

David, 17, admitted he was not sure when the excitement of speaking to Tim Peake would wear off. He said:

“To be having a discussion with a British astronaut who is literally in space – and to be the first people to do that in a broadcast … His answers had so much substance, it was really interesting. It slowly sinks in that a question you are asking is giving viewers all over the world an insight into his mission. To say getting this opportunity was a huge honour really is an understatement.”

Emily, 19, who lives in Loughborough, agreed the magnitude of being part of the first broadcast conversation still hadn’t sunk in. She said:

“It was nerve-wracking so you try to tell yourself it’s not that big a deal but then to see him there on the screen and to be speaking to Tim Peake live was thrilling. I got to discuss the colonization of other planets with a British astronaut in space. It really is the best thing I have ever done.”

“I am studying space because I love it and in my first year of the course I have already done some amazing things but this…” explained 16 year old Richard Jones. “I felt so pleased that I asked the question that made Tim Peake turn upside down for his response – it brought it home exactly what we were all doing. An astronaut was talking to us live from space. I still feel ecstatic.

“I just hope our enthusiasm and being young people taking part in such a historic broadcast helps in us being ambassadors to the next generation and encourages them to get involved in the space sector.”

Meanwhile ten Loughborough College space engineering students joined Sky News at the National Space Centre in Leicester to watch live. Lewis Toon, Ryan Kelly and Sam Abell discussed how they had been involved in the design of experiments for Tim Peake, including the one demonstrated by him and by Emily.

“To have had the chance to be involved in this mission, through our course, really is such a privilege,” said Lewis.

“This really was a once in a lifetime opportunity for our Space Engineering students - not only to speak to British astronaut Tim Peake while he is 400 km above the Earth’s surface but to do it as part of the first broadcast live conversation with him,” said Dr Martin Killeen, Head of Advanced Manufacturing and Technology at Loughborough College.

“This is a landmark space mission and this has been a truly inspirational moment for all our students - one I am sure none of them will ever forget."