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Wednesday, March 31, 1999 Published at 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK


Mir calls Welsh school

The project will inspire school pupils

Russian cosmonaut Viktor Afanasyez called down from the Mir space station on Wednesday to send a message of congratulations to pupils at a UK school.

Delyth Lloyd reports from Penarth
The radio link was set up to allow the Mir commander to officially open a set of buildings and launch a major space project that will link 2,000 schools around the world over the Internet.

The Stanwell Comprehensive in Penarth, Wales, will manage the International Space School.

This virtual school will give pupils the latest information on space exploration.

With a link into Nasa's huge database, it will become an invaluable resource centre for learning about subjects like science, geography and computing.

Space station

Pupils will be able to do project work with like minded e-pals across the world.

It is hoped some pupils will even be able to devise experiments that can be carried out on board the International Space Station, which is currently under construction 400 kilometres above the Earth.

The opening ceremony in Penath had a star-studded cast including George Abbey, Director of Johnson Space Center in Houston, US astronaut Dr Bonnie Dunbar, and Pilot Cosmonaut General Yuri Glazkov, Director of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Moscow.

There was also a contribution from Welsh-Canadian astronaut Dr Dafydd Rhys-Williams who called in from Houston via a live video facility.

The International Space School Website will come online in the next few months. It will be managed at Penath with input from Nasa and the Russian Space Agency. The project will also get support from the British National Space Centre, BT, Dow Corning and the Welsh Development Agency, among others.

Astronaut training

The Penarth comprehensive's relationship with the space programme stretches back five years and was begun by former pupils Geoff Mules and his wife Annette.

Mr Mules, now a highly successful businessman in Texas, approached Stanwell with the idea of developing an educational programme aimed at sixth-formers.

He paid for two pupils to study for three weeks in the summer of 1994 at Johnson Space Center, the home of mission control and the US astronaut training corps in Houston. The programme has now become an annual event.

The Mules founded the International Space School Foundation (ISSF) which supports students from almost 40 schools in 13 different countries taking part every year in the summer "space" school.

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