Last Wednesday 7 February 35 Foundation pupils from Princethorpe, Crackley and the Crescent swapped their normal lessons to ‘Rendezvous with a Comet’.  The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) based challenge took place in the Challenger Learning Centre which is part of the National Space Centre in Leicester.

For the challenge pupils took on the roles of scientists and engineers on a daring mission to take an up-close look at a comet as it streaks its way across the solar system. Their goal is to plot a successful course to rendezvous with the comet and launch a probe to collect important scientific data.  After a briefing by Space Centre Commanders Rob and Matt, the children started by constructing a space probe and then plotted the correct intercept course.  The routine mission quickly evolved as obstacles and problems emerged and all of the pupils worked together as a team to come up with solutions.

Foundation pupils took on various different roles, in both mission control and on the space shuttle.  They included working in the Navigation, Communication and Data, Isolation, Medical and Remote Teams. During the two and half hour mission our Year 6, 7 and 8 pupils had to communicate effectively, plot accurate co-ordinates, swap data, test chemicals, identify gases and colour spectrums.  A particularly memorable moment was when the Shuttle's Communication Officer reminded those back on Earth that they still needed the location of the CO2 sponges if they were to avert a capsule failure and a mission catastrophe.

The teams got a heroes’ welcome home when they returned to Mission Control safely. Da Vinci Co-ordinator, Mrs Pascoe-Williams commented, “It was another excellent mission – this is the sixth time that we have taken pupils to the Space Centre and I was impressed with how well the pupils from our three schools worked together.  The atmosphere was fantastic and the enthusiasm boundless, all in all it was a great opportunity for cross-curricula learning.”


The mission-critical trip ended with a film in the 3D planetarium and that all-important visit to the gift shop to purchase some souvenirs to remind everyone of their rendezvous with the Comet Cre-ackleythorpe!