BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Education
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Hot Topics 
UK Systems 
League Tables 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Sunday, 20 August, 2000, 00:11 GMT 01:11 UK
Trip fuels pupil's space dream
students at briefing
Students from 17 countries attended the space school
Sam Martin, 16, has just returned from three weeks at the International Space School and at Nasa's Johnson Space Center in Texas. For him it was the trip of a lifetime - and has helped to refine his ambitions to be an astronaut.

In May we were told about an exciting competition which was running for the second year in England. It was to go to Houston, Texas for three weeks to live, eat and study with astronauts and other Nasa employees.

Students at our school in Bude, Cornwall, had to write a 1,000-word essay on why space should be explored and from those essays we were short listed for interview.

sam martin
Rocket man Sam Martin
Eventually I and Samantha Smith, 17, in the year above me, were chosen to represent England at the space school for three weeks from 27 July.

In all, 39 students would be representing 17 countries: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Eire, Isle of Man, Russia, USA, Hawaii, India, Ukraine, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

We were both very excited at the prospect of going on such a prestigious trip and meeting other like-minded students from around the world. Only our school was involved from England because our ex-deputy head has links with the International Space School.

It was the most amazing and exciting three weeks of our lives. There were hardly 10 minutes to spare.

Mars mission

Apart from the recreational activities such as pool parties, go-karting, volleyball, sunbathing, bowling and shopping, we had a mound of work to do and things to experience.

We had to complete a Mission to Mars project. The group was split into three teams: Getting There, Living There and Working There.

The project took about two weeks to complete, with much discussion and a lot of hard work and effort. Everyone did exceptionally well and at the end of the last week we had to present the project to Nasa and Boeing chiefs, plus all the host families.

We had access to all areas, so we were allowed to watch astronauts training on simulators, had many tours and trips to places like Moody Gardens and Ellington Airfield (astronaut training field) and had lectures from lawyers, flight surgeons and astronauts, which inspired many into choosing a new career with Nasa.

Before I left for Houston I had had my heart set on becoming an airline pilot. For 10 years I had known that flying was wanted I wanted to do, and that I would achieve it.

Change of plan

I knew that my ultimate goal was to be an astronaut, but that would come after I had been an airline pilot. Samantha wanted to be a doctor and was more interested in the science side of the trip.

I had changed my mind by the end of the second week. I had met so many astronauts and inspiring people they had changed my mind.

I had decided that I wanted to study at the United States Air Force Academy in 2002, to get my degree and afterwards, hopefully, train to be a fighter pilot in either the US or UK, depending on how long it would take to get my US citizenship.

After 1,000 hours of flying I will apply to Nasa for an astronaut position, providing I have all the right requirements and qualifications.

paul richards
Nasa mission specialist Paul Richards: Inspiring host
My host family were the most amazing people I have ever met. It was a huge bonus for me staying with a US astronaut, Paul Richards, and his wife Susan.

They put up with four students, plus their own three kids and took us absolutely everywhere. I will never forget them and we will always stay in contact.

I have been asked to go and watch my host dad's first space flight to the International Space Station from Florida next February, which should be a breathtaking experience.

Sad to leave

I cannot thank the founders of the International Space School, Geoff and Annette Mules, enough for allowing us to go on this trip.

They raise money every week for a whole year, playing in a local band so that the experience next year can be as memorable as the one before.

All of the students bonded in a very special way during the three weeks. We spent so much time with each other and found out we had so much in common it made it impossible for anyone to dislike each other.

We are all missing each other greatly. We were extremely sad to leave such a fantastic place.

The British and French students are meeting up again in October and from then on, who knows?

The views expressed here are personal.
Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

11 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Manned flight to Mars in 2014?
23 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Space station readied for crew
01 Apr 99 | Sci/Tech
Mir calls Welsh school
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Education stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Education stories