Beam me up Scotty

Press release: For immediate release

School children from across Scotland will have their questions answered live by two astronauts aboard the International Space Station next month.

On 8 April, NASA will open a live link to the earth-orbiting laboratory and will play videos of the children asking questions for Kate Rubins and Mike Hopkins to answer.

It’s part of an international project organised by Scot Professor David Alexander OBE, who is the director of the Space Institute at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He brought together an international team from Scotland, Houston and Ecuador to take advantage of the opportunity to talk live to the astronauts.

“It’s been a tough year for school children across the world, so we wanted to give them a unique opportunity, and the chance to talk to an astronaut is hard to beat” he said.

“The exploration of space is an international endeavour. I really wanted to involve schools from different countries and backgrounds and being a proud Scot here in Texas, Scotland was the first place on my list. Together with Houston and Guayaquil in Ecuador, we have the opportunity to not only explore space but different cultures. We’re hoping it will be the start of something exciting, creating great relationships and inspiring students to pursue opportunities in the space sector. Talking live to the Space Station is a very rare event – we were so thrilled with the excitement it generated in the participating schools.”

The live link will form the centrepiece of a free two-hour online watch party called “Let’s Talk Space – Beaming schools from Scotland, Houston and Ecuador onto the Space Station”. This is the world’s ultimate school field trip; allowing school children to escape lockdown … and gravity.

The watch party will feature Bonnie Dunbar, one of only 65 women to go into space, whose grandfather was born in Dundee and crossed the Atlantic to the ‘New World’ in the late 1800s. She will be joined by Serena Auňón-Chancellor, who has twice visited the ISS. The event will also feature the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon; the Mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner and the former President of Ecuador, Rosalia Arteaga.

Hosted by Connect and chaired by broadcaster Kim McAllister and Dr Murray Collins, space lead at the University of Edinburgh, the watch party will offer the chance for attendees to ask questions and hear from an international panel of space experts.

“Bringing two more female astronauts to the party is a very rare treat,” event producer and host Kim McAllister said. 

“It’s been so exciting pulling all the elements of this event together. Kate Rubins herself suggested assigning her live crew link to the Rice Space Institute – David then decided to open up that opportunity to this group of schools. Scottish Enterprise helped with the schools outreach, and seeing all the submissions come in from Houston and Guayaquil was brilliant. It’s just a great showcase of partnership working for the benefit of education. I can’t wait for all the children to see the astronauts answer their questions in zero gravity!”

The project has been a joint venture involving the Rice Space Institute, Connect, Scottish Enterprise, the University of Edinburgh and Guayaquil Space Society in Ecuador.

Robert Aillon, CEO of Leviathan Industries and the Ecuador lead, said: “Our students have faced heavy loss and uncertainty during the last year, Guayaquil was the first city in Latin America overwhelmed by COVID-19.

“This project for us means creating hope in their lives and showing them that they are not alone, but part of an international community ready to share and learn together. We hope these bonds that are being established will allow the students and faculty members to start new research projects, exchange programs and lasting friendships between all the participants.”