Space Assembly

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My presentation to the whole-school Assembly at my daughter's Primary School to tell them about Tim Peake, the first British Astronaut, his scheduled launch date on the 15th of December, 2015, and his 6 month mission on the Interntational Space Station - the Principia Mission.

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  • We’ve got some something quite exciting coming up on the 15th of December, don’t we? It’s the Infants Nativity Play next week Wednesday.
  • We’ve been learning about the values of Peace and Hope, and The Natvity Play will be telling a story that is full of Peace and Hope.
  • The birth of baby Jesus is a symbol of Hope – the love that God has for us that his sent his own son to live with us on Earth and teach us.
  • And the 3 Kings are a symbol of peace, that great rulers from all over the world came to worship Jesus together, all of us sharing God’s love in Peace and Harmony.
  • But the reason that I’m visiting you today, is because something else very exciting is happening on December 15th – and it is also a symbol of Hope and Peace here on Earth. And also in Space! This picture is of the Soyuz Rocket, which takes Astronauts up to the International Space Station.
  • On December 15th, the very first British Astronaut is going up into Space. His name is Tim Peake, and this is his Mission Badge. His Mission is called Principia, after a very important book that was written by the great British scientist Sir Issac Newton – in this book he described very important laws of Physics about motion and gravity – things we had never understood before.
  • If you look really carefully at his mission badge, you can see an apple – which is a reference to a story that is told about Isaac Newton. The story goes that he was inspired to think about the laws of gravity when he was sitting under an apple tree and an apple fell on head. He started thinking about why it fell to the ground, and what would happen if the tree was much much taller – would it fall the same speed or get faster as it fell? You can also see Great Britain on the earth below, and the colours of the British flag around the side of the Badge.
  • Here is Tim Peake holding a copy of “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” (Latin for “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) at the Royal Society, with a bust of Sir Isaac Newton.
  • Tim Peake is going to live and work for 6 months on the International Space Station. There are two other Astronauts going up in the Soyuz rocket with him. They will be joining 6 other Astronauts who are already on the Space station.
  • The reason that the International Space Station is a symbol of Peace, is because it is possible thanks to many countries around the world working together, as one Human Race exploring space and doing Science together. So far there have 220 people aboard the Space Station in total, and these are the countries that they have come from. The British flag is going to be on this picture next week!
  • These are all of the countries in the world who have helped to build the Space Station and it’s Science Equipment – it’s a pretty big partnership, with people working together from all over the world.
  • And the Astronauts are very proud of all of the countries that they come from, and they decorate the inside of the Space Station with their flags and their Mission Badges – another great symbol of Peace and all people working together in harmony.
  • Airway Monitoring: As we breathe in and out we release some nitric oxide molecules in our breath. We know that the amount of nitric oxide exhaled can be an indication of inflammation in the lungs. Doctors on Earth are measuring the amount of nitric oxide to help diagnose asthma and other diseases of the lungs, but the method is not yet fully understood.

    For future exploration of our Universe space physicians are always looking for easier ways to monitor astronaut health. There are concerns that dust that could be dangerous to human health on other planets or our Moon, for example. Apollo lunar astronauts said that the Moon dust was all-invasive, clinging to equipment, clothes and getting into their spacecraft.

    To test nitric oxide monitoring in space and assess its value as a diagnostic tool, ESA astronaut Tim Peake and other astronauts will wear a portable gasmask that analyses the molecule as he breathes. The experiment will be performed at normal Space Station pressure but also at a half-pressure in the Quest airlock to simulate the atmosphere on a lunar base.

    This is the first time that Quest is being used for scientific research, its main purpose until now being for spacewalks. ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti began the experiment during her mission in 2015.

    Previous ESA experiments have led to improved hospital equipment and diagnoses. The Airway Monitoring experiment will add to knowledge of using nitric oxide in our breath as a diagnostic tool. The experiment also paves the way for sending astronauts to the Moon and beyond, where they would have to live healthily self-sufficiently.
  • Knee Problems: This MRI scan shows a knee joint with cartilage covering the articulating joint surfaces to help the bones slide smoothly.

    Cartilage responds slowly to changes in joint loading because it does not have any blood vessels, lymphatic system or nerves to feed and grow tissue, so nutrients are absorbed slowly.

    Everyday loading of our skeleton is important to keep cartilage healthy because the motion and loading of the joint are needed to get nutrients into the cartilage, but little is known about cartilage in bedridden people on Earth.

    To find out more, the Institute of Biomechanics and Orthopaedics of the German Sport University Cologne in Germany is studying astronauts.

    As astronauts float in space for up to six months their legs are hardly used in weightlessness. The researchers are analysing biomarkers in up to 10 astronauts before and after flight to chart cartilage metabolism, thickness, volume and water content in knee joints.

    This is the first time such a study is being done on healthy people. As cartilage responds so slowly, a similar study with healthy individuals on Earth would require that they do not move for many months, which is impossible.

    The goal is to learn more about how the knee cartilage of the astronauts suffers from their trip into space. From here, researchers are hoping to understand the role of mechanical loading for cartilage health and the development of osteoarthritis.
  • Space Age Metals: On Earth, a number of gravity-driven phenomena often lead to unwanted effects when processing materials. Buoyancy, convection and sedimentation can hamper creating the ‘perfect’ alloy or compound. To improve the quality, reliability and reproducibility of products made on Earth, European scientists are experimenting in weightlessness.

    Tim will use the Electromagnetic Levitator in ESA’s Columbus laboratory. This furnace can heat metals to 2000°C and then cool them rapidly. Blacksmiths have been using this technique for centuries to create steel tools and weapons by heating, hammering and quenching in water. This process freezes the steel’s structure and causes it to be hard and stay sharp.

    Understanding the underlying physics is complicated and factors such as gravity and the mould used to hold the metal in place influence the process, making it difficult to get to the fundamentals. Observing liquid metals cooling in weightlessness removes the complexity to reveal the core process of physics. The Electromagnetic Levitator takes things a step further and suspends the metals in mid-air as they melt and solidify.

    The metals can be heated in a vacuum or in a gas. A high-speed camera records the forging and sensors record the temperature and other variables. The metals formed are retrieved and returned to Earth for further analysis.
  • Tim will be living and working on board the ISS for six months. During this time he will be carrying out 30 experiments for ESA. These include research into materials, and investigating the effects of space travel on the human body. The ISS is an excellent place for this research, as its microgravity environment – often called weightlessness – cannot be reproduced on Earth. Conducting experiments in weightless conditions may lead to breakthroughs no-one can yet imagine! (This is a photo of Astronaut Karen Nyborg doing Science Experimments in the ISS Lab)
  • The RHS Campaign for School Gardening has partnered with the UK Space Agency to embark on an ‘out of this world’ educational project.

    The project, Rocket Science, will give around half a million UK children the chance to learn how science in space contributes to our knowledge of life on earth, using the invaluable expertise of the European Space Agency (ESA) and RHS Science team.

    Two kilograms of rocket seeds will shortly take off from Florida bound for the International Space Station as part of British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s six-month Principia mission.

    After several months on board, the seeds will be sent back and will land in the Pacific Ocean in the spring of 2016. After they return to the UK, they will be packaged up with identical seeds that have stayed on earth. Participating schools will each receive two packets of 100 seeds to grow and compare, and a collection of fun and inspiring curriculum linked teaching resources and posters, tailored according to the age of your pupils (Key Stages 1 and 2 or Key Stages 3,4 and 5).

    Using these resources, we want pupils of all ages across the UK to embark on a voyage of discovery to see what growing plants in space can teach us about life on Earth and whether we can sustain human life in space through the production of our own food. Schools will be invited to input their results into a national online database so that results can be compared across all schools in the UK. The project is aimed at inspiring pupils to think scientifically and helping them to see the potential of future careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) and Horticulture. (This is a photo of Iranian Engineer Anousheh Ansari holding a barley plant being grown on the ISS)
  • Aside from the lack of pressure and oxygen in the vacuum of space, temperatures vary dramatically because there is no atmosphere to protect and insulate against the full spectrum of the Sun’s rays. Until recently, scientists always assumed that no life could survive in these conditions.

    However, ESA research has found life that can survive spaceflight. Both lichen and small organisms called tardigrades or ‘water bears’ have spent months outside the International Space Station and have returned to Earth alive and well.

    This research has far-reaching implications: life can travel unprotected through the Solar System.

    For its third sortie, Expose has an extra type of accommodation: by adding UV filters and regulating the pressure in some of the modules, some samples are being subjected to Mars and Moon-like conditions. How will these chemicals and extremophiles – lifeforms that can live in extreme environments – fare after a year in open space?
  • Tim is now in Russia doing his final few days of training, and will be in quarantine for his final days before getting into the Soyuz Rocket next Wednesday.
  • And is luggage has already been delivered! This is a picture of the space station robotic arm connecting with the Cygnus supply ship, that carries food and water and equipment and science experiments to the station, before the 3 new astronauts arrive. This picture was taken yesterday! Aboard are the AstroPi computers and spare parts for ESA's Biolab facility among many other cargo items – over 3000 kg worth of experiments and supplies.
  • Space Assembly

    1. 1. December 15th
    2. 2. Dec 15th
    3. 3. Tim Peake
    4. 4. International Space Station

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