As Major Tim Peake blasted in to space this week for his six-month mission to the International Space Station, it brought back memories of Space Month in June 2010 when the entire six-man crew of the final Atlantis space shuttle mission, fresh from outer space, visited PGS.
The visit in 2010 was one month and one day after the crew of Atlantis Mission STS-132 landed from a 12-day flight to the International Space Centre, they arrived in Portsmouth on the first stop of a two week tour along with NASA support staff. The opportunity for them came about when Jeremy Thomas, then Deputy Head of Physics, took Sixth Form science students to NASA through the International Space School Educational Trust and became friends with its Director, Mr Chris Barber, who brings astronauts to Britain on motivational trips. PGS in partnership with Portsmouth City Council, Gosport Borough Council, the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth, EADS Astrium, Southern Co-operative, Hants Astro and The News worked together to devise an action-packed programme.
Highlights of the visit included an inspirational presentation to thousands of excited children from across the South at Fratton Park, a gala dinner on-board Warrior 1860 and a spectacular daytime firework display to end Portsmouth Festivities.
“I remember vividly us hosting a gala dinner on board HMS Warrior 1860 and introducing the crew to the then Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts,” reflects Headmaster James Priory. “Piers Sellers was particularly keen to lobby the Minister over dinner about the importance of manned missions into space and the value of these scientifically as well as in inspiring future generations. The Minister was clearly intrigued by Sellers’ passionate case and scribbled down a number of his comments in a small note book he was carrying on him. How wonderful, then, to see Tim Peake travelling on Tuesday to the International Space Station as Britain’s first official astronaut and to think that an encounter in Portsmouth Dockyard might just have played a small part in contributing to that mission.”