Sheffield astronaut Helen Sharman OBE inspires schoolchildren to 'reach for the stars'

Britain's first astronaut in space, Helen Sharman OBE, has inspired hundreds of schoolchildren to reach for the stars during a talk at Sheffield Cathedral.

Monday, 16th March 2020, 5:00 pm

Helen, who is one of the very few humans to have seen the earth from space, visited Sheffield Cathedral on Friday, March 13, to talk to over 400 pupils about her time training to be an astronaut, living in space, the experiments she carried out and readjusting to life back on our planet once it was over.

The lucky school children have their eagle-eyed teachers to thank for being able to meet the space pioneer after places were snapped after the event was posted on the Cathedral’s Facebook page.

During her talk at Sheffield Cathedral, Helen showed the schoolchildren photos from the MIR Space Station, many of which she took herself.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Astronaut Helen Sharman OBE talking to school children in Sheffield Cathedral

Read More

Read More
Coronavirus: Sheffield MP Olivia Blake self isolating after displaying COVID-19 ...

Speaking at the event, she said: “I’ve been talking to schools from around Sheffield and the region about what it is like in space. I love talking about science and engineering and anything that just makes that come to life and of course in the space context, what better.

“I think it is really important that we do have events that make science, for young people, really interesting and make it relevant actually. Teachers are great at schools, they work really hard, but not everybody is a science specialist and, even if you are, you’ve got so many things going on.”

She added: “It’s trying to make something really special and to bring students together and make them think about things that aren’t necessarily about that particular lesson of the day but they will certainly be about what students need to learn at some point in their school careers just generally about science.

Astronaut Helen Sharman OBE talking to school children in Sheffield Cathedral

“You’ll talk about a rocket launch, actually that’s Newton’s third law, you don’t need to mention Newton’s third law but they’re learning it; talk about how you use the toilet in space and they’re learning electrolysis – it'll all come back to them when they learn it later on.”

Born in Grenoside, Helen put Sheffield on the map by blasting into space on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, to become the first British astronaut at just 27-years-old on May 18, 1991 – spending eight days orbiting the earth while living and working on the MIR Space Station.

In space, her tasks included medical, agricultural and chemical experiments, materials’ testing, earth observation work and operating an amateur radio link with British school students.

Helen was one of over 13,000 people who applied to become the first British astronaut after she heard an advert on her car radio on her way home after work.

Astronaut Helen Sharman OBE talking to school children in Sheffield Cathedral

Now, she speaks at events across the world and enthuses her audience about space, STEM subjects and the wonders of science.

During her talk at Sheffield Cathedral, Helen showed the schoolchildren photos from the MIR Space Station, many of which she took herself.

The event took place in the midst of British Science Week 2020, a ten-day celebration to encourage young people to learn about science, technology, engineering and maths, and acted as a launch-pad for the Cathedral’s latest light show, The Observatory, which takes visitors to the edge of the universe and back.

Helen, 56, added: "The students today have seemed to have really enjoyed it, they had big happy, smiley, faces and I had lots of questions which is always a good sign for me.

“If people ask me questions then I know it has made them think more and that to me is a success. It is not just telling them stuff, it is about making them think that little bit more, perhaps broadening their horizons – not just about what they might be doing in life but how they might be doing it, and just the amazing opportunities that life now can present to all the young people.”