Past Astronaut Events

June 2015 visit of NASA Astronaut Donald Thomas Lecture Events

Very excited and privileged to have hosted former NASA Astronaut Don Thomas for the day on Monday June 8th 2015.

Don Thomas is an astronaut, scientist, professional speaker, educator, and author of Orbit of Discovery about his STS-70 mission aboard space shuttle Discovery. A veteran of four flights, Don has spent 44 days in space. Don is helping to inform and excite the public about our future in space and preparing our next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers for their missions in the future.

The day began for us leaving home in Walsall at 5.00 AM to travel up to Manchester to pick up Don for a 7.00 AM start. Thank goodness Don is an early riser too.

Quick trip down the M6 (thankfully no early morning holdups) and into Aldridge school (a science college). Meet and greet with the staff and senior students, thank you to all and Rebekah Bridgman (Head of science) for the warm welcome.

Students had researched Don and his shuttle flights and put together some display boards that were positioned on the stage with the posters that the Year 7 students had designed.

After a brief introduction Don launched into his lecture ‘Living and Working in Space’ to more than 200 staff and students and captivated them with his presentation with many great images and a first-hand narrative.

A Q&A session followed with many excellent questions. This was Don’s first U.K. school lecture

Don presented Rebekah with a framed photo/patch montage. Three winners of the poster completion were then presented with their prizes, a signed Orbit of Discovery book and vouchers.

A professional photographer had been drafted in take some brilliant shots of Don and the prize winners.

  • Display boards for Don Thomas Astronaut visit.

  • Display boards for Don Thomas Astronaut visit.

  • Don Thomas animated presentation.

  • Don Thomas presents Head of Science Rebekah Bridgman with a photo/mission patch montage.

  • Don Thomas with prize winning students and Head of Science Rebekah Bridgman.

  • Before the lecture

  • As staff and students arrive

Off for a quick pit stop in Aldridge town centre for coffee at the local Costa and meeting with some of the family.

  • Don Thomas with daughter Nikki and grandson Logan.

  • Don Thomas with the staff at the Aldridge Costa Coffee.

On then to the town of Knighton just across the border in Wales. Destination the Knighton Church in Wales Primary school. We arrived a little later than planned. The children were very excited to meet an astronaut. On Don’s arrival in the school hall he was greeted with a song that the children had rehearsed well. Younger children in the audience had dressed up as space aliens, astronauts and a half dozen Buzz Lightyear’s. What do you call a group of Lightyear’s all in one place?

Don later remarked that it was slightly surreal looking out onto a multitude of green faces some with antennae staring back at him, a short Q&A session followed.

  • Don Thomas during the Q&A session

  • Don Thomas making a presentation to the Head teacher Mary Strong.

The ultimate signature on your cast.

Don then presented an abbreviated ‘Living and Working’ in Space presentation for the older children. Among some of earth views was a familiar shot of the Thames snaking through London. When Don asked if anyone knew where this was an image of he was somewhat surprised when just about every child chorused “its Eastenders”.

The older children had prepared a number of questions for him and with only a few days’ notice had put a lot of thought into them. Don finished the session with a futuristic Mars exploration image and went on to explain that astronauts in the shot could be any one of them (but not him, their parents or their teachers……… as they were already too old) this was greeted with loud laughter. The school visit was finished off with a framed photo/patch presentation to Mary Strong, head teacher of the school. Don was presented with a Welsh flag. Don has some Welsh ancestry and with the surname Thomas was warmly accepted as a native.

Another coffee/cake stop this time at the Tower House Gallery.

Off again, for a short trip up the hill to the Spaceguard Centre. The National Near Earth Objects Information Centre. The centre Director Jay Tate welcomed Don and gave him a mini tour of the facility (well worth a visit if you are in the area). They cater for larger groups too such as school visits. Check ahead for opening times and availability.

  • Former Astronaut Don Thomas with the Spaceguard centre Director Jay Tate.

Then we headed back to Manchester for dinner and a little relaxation, finally. A round trip of 400 miles but when you have circled the Earth nearly 700 times as Don has done, what’s a few hundred miles more.

Don had done all of the hard work. His message  throughout the day was a very positive one, ‘reach for the stars’,’ follow your dreams’, ‘work hard at school’ and if at first you don’t succeed, address the reason why and try again.

Don is a great public speaker full of enthusiasm and very inspiring, we witnessed him in action today and he can instantly cater for the target audience.

For more information on Don Thomas please visit his website.

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September 2015 visit of NASA Astronaut Walt Cunningham Lecture Events

Walt Cunningham Visit Day 1.

Courtesy of Express & Star Newspapers

This is a work in progress, please drop by to see how its progressing!

A brief roundup of the Walt Cunningham series of events –

Day 1.

Walt Cunningham and his lovely wife Dot jetted into Heathrow Terminal 5 on the morning of 23 September. They had been delayed on the ground in Houston for some three and a half hours. A car journey to Walsall in the West Midlands followed.

We arrived at the Town Hall to some waiting reporters. A photo shoot and a video interview for the Express & Star Newspaper followed.

A short journey by train into the heart of Birmingham had been arranged for Walt to be interviewed on BBC radio WM.

Once out of the interview another interview this time over the phone with the Walsall Advertiser.

Back then to Walsall by train and then a short car journey to the Walsall Astronomical Society who meet regularly at the social club of Rushall Olympic Football Club. Their regular meeting had been brought forward and they had arranged for a display of lunar meteorites and NASA moon rock on loan for an Apollo themed evening. Club members did not know that Walt Cunningham was an invited guest.

Walt answered questions from the group for about an hour; members took full advantage of their special guest with a broad range of questions from Apollo to climate change, Mars missions and beyond. If you know Walt he pulls no punches and tells it like it is.

(If you have photos that you do not mind sharing please send to inspirespace@mail.com, thank you).

Walt Cunningham Visit Day 2.

Courtesy of Express & Star Newspapers

Day 2.

An early start up to the National Space Centre at Leicester. Here Walt was given a brief tour of the centre. Start of the first signing session of his book, the All American Boys.

A pre-arranged visit followed where staff and pupils from the Whitfield Valley Primary Academy, Stoke-on-Trent asked numerous questions to Walt he answered all of them and was keen to engage with the children and ask them a few questions of his own.The school motto – Be the best you can be struck a particular chord with Walt.

Walt and his wife Dot perform charity work with the Be An Angel Foundation at home in the U.S. and enjoy interacting with children.

A brief stop for lunch and Walt was into the Sir Patrick Moore planetarium, a NASA video was used, it described the start of the space race and linked the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo Programs. Lasting approximately 15 minutes the video connected the Apollo era and the ensuing Q&A session nicely together.

Walt on top form answered all of the prearranged questions from attendees and eagerly followed this with random questions from the floor. This could easily have run over as Walt was keen to answer everyone who had a question and there were plenty of them.

The presentation was followed by a further book signing and then a photo shoot with the Leicester Mercury newspaper.

Another photo op this time with National Space Academy Space Engineering students. They are currently on a course, details of which can be found here:  National Space Academy they had attended Walts lecture/Q&A and were excited to meet him and have a photo with him.

Time to get back!

(If you have photos that you do not mind sharing please send to inspirespace@mail.com, thank you).

  • Space Engineers of the future

  • Staff and pupils from Whitfield Valley Primary Academy

  • Staff and pupils from Whitfield Valley Primary Academy

Walt Cunningham Visit Day 3.

Courtesy of Express & Star Newspapers

A rest day in readiness for ‘Dine with an Astronaut’ evening event at the Village Hotel in Walsall, sparkling wine and canapés, with a professional photo opportunity, dinner followed by a brief auction and autograph signing.

(If you have photos that you do not mind sharing please send to inspirespace@mail.com, thank you).

Walt Cunningham Visit Day 4.

Walt Cunningham with BBC Radio WM Paul Franks, courtesy of the BBC.

An audience with an Astronaut – Walt Cunningham at Walsall Town Hall. A photoshoot opportunity was followed by a brief introduction for Walt.

He presented us with a new lecture entitled ‘ The Golden Age of Apollo’. Walt drew on historical aspects of the sixties and the place of the Apollo program within that. He examined why we explore, the need to explore and the benefits to society as a whole.

A short Q&A session followed with an autograph signing for anyone interested, which was everyone, Walt patiently signed to the last.

Trade stands from Spaceboosters Limited our main sponsor were available to peruse, so to a stand managed by space author Dave Shayler and his wife Bel from Astro Information Service (AIS) with a selection of books, CD’s and some calendars. There was also a display promoting the Walsall Astronomical Society.

What the papers say!

We had some good newspaper coverage before and after the event, some of it featured here. We did not manage to get the story from the Leicester Mercury so have included their online coverage here.

  • Courtesy of the Leicester Mercury Online

  • Courtesy of the Express & Star

  • Courtesy of the Walsall Chronicle

  • Courtesy of the Walsall Advertiser

A Big Thank you

A big thank you to everyone that came and supported the various events, without your support they cannot happen (we’ll keep in touch and will send out timely information regarding our next ‘Astronautevent’) we have had some very positive feedback during and after each event.

Thank you to Walt Cunningham and his wife Dot, without whom there was no event.

Thank you to my long suffering wife (Bryar) and our two daughters Kirstie and Nikki, thank you for your assistance with everything; it was appreciated even when the stress was beginning to show.

Walsall Town Hall, smooth operators from beginning to end, lots of advice, much of it taken on-board. Special thanks to Sunita, Sue and Sophia (thanks to the Lord Mayor and Consort for attending), thank you to all of the staff, security and catering included. The Town Hall is a great venue, so much history and it can now add an Apollo astronaut to its list of visitors.

Walsall Astronomical Society –  I only returned to the fold in recent months, some familiar faces and many new ones. Thanks to all of the members that attended and supported with special thanks to Carl, Alan and Paul who pulled out all of the stops to keep Walt’s visit a secret and obtaining the Moon rock was fantastic  too.

National Space Centre, another smooth operation. Nothing was too much trouble and you planned our visit from beginning to end. Again too many to mention, a very professional team led by Malika, Anu, Rebeca and Zoe. Like a precision watch.

Village  Hotel Walsall, professional set up and a lovely Hotel. Thanks to Nisha, Wedding/Events co-ordinator and to Mike and the team for making the dinner enjoyable and relaxed.

Professional photo team – thank you James and Karen – quick, patient, professional operation. Brilliant photo backdrop, although I say it myself, photos produced on time for autographs to be obtained on the night, a great and lasting  memento.

We could not do everything on our own so were grateful for the assistance of Andrew and Julie McDermott (they are old pro’s at it now) and Paul Bradbury. Thanks to Nikki and Chris Lee (stalwart rafflers and astro-teddy promoters) and to table lugger and general furniture re-arranger Ian Arkesden. Thanks also to Katy for helping out on the trade stand.

Dave and Bel Shayler support appreciated.

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February 2016 Astronaut Don Thomas Events

Day 1.

This latest series of events began down in London with a tour of the Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age exhibition.

It finishes on the 13th March only days now before it ends. Check out this and other great events at the Science Museum London.

Later in the evening Dr. Don Thomas (call me Don) gave his polished ‘The Day a Woodpecker Attacked the Space Shuttle’ presentation to the assembled members of the British Interplanetary Society.

This was followed by a Q&A session, book and autograph signing.

Don was presented with a certificate and made a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society. Arise Dr. Don Thomas FBIS.

More to follow soon…….

  • Don Thomas at the British Interplanetary Society in London

  • Don Thomas was awarded a Fellowship of the British Interplanetary Society

Day 2.

The day began at Brassington Primary School, Brassington, Matlock, Derbyshire with a presentation on living and working in space to an exited group of young children and staff members. Don also entertained a group of pre-schoolers and also fielded a Q &A session for parents.

Off then to another Derbyshire school the Longford Church of England  Primary School in Longford, Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

Don received another warm welcome from the children and the staff and entertained and enthralled them with his stories of space travel and life on orbit.

After a brief stop we were headed back to Walsall.

Later that evening Don presented ‘The Day a Woodpecker Attacked the Space Shuttle’ talk to members of the Walsall Astronomical Society based at the Rushall Olympic Football Club. It was standing room only. The lecture was followed by a Q&A session, book and autograph signing.

More to follow soon……

  • Don Thomas and the pesky woodpecker story.

  • Don Thomas presenting a framed photo to Mrs E.V. Moorsom Headteacher of the Brassington Primary School.

  • Photo courtesy of the AshbourneNewsTelegraph. Brassington Primary School pupils captivated by astronaut.

  • Photo courtesy AshbourneNewsTelegraph.Astronaut Dr Don Thomas, right, with pupil Alex Martin.

  • Walsall Astronomical Society Lecture

Day3.

The big event of the week was a full day of activities at the National Space Centre in Leicester. Don was a veritable whirlwind of energy.

Don the consummate professional was on hand to engage with the public, young and old alike.

He entertained and educated and was popular with everyone he met. The day of activities included Breakfast with an Astronaut; professional photo shoot; autograph and book signing; Lunch with an Astronaut and then a Q&A session to a more than 190 strong audience, standing room only in the Sir Patrick Moore planetarium.

A number of guests either had birthdays immediately before the event; some were celebrating birthdays at the event of the following day. A cake featuring space mission was presented to the lunch with an astronaut guests.

Wow what an event! Feedback from the event has been 100% positive.

March 2017 Don Thomas U.K. Visit

Don Thomas once again wowed the audiences at all of the events on this 2017 visit. The school’s events again proved particularly popular.

Day 1. 22nd March 2017 Aldridge, Walsall evening lecture/Q&A event at the Calderfields Golf and Country Club.

Day 2. 23rd March 2017 AM visit Nunnery Wood Primary School, Worcester, and PM visit King Charles I School Kidderminster

Day 3.24th March 2017 Aldridge Academy School, Aldridge, Walsall.

Day 4. 25th March 2017 National Space Centre, Leicester full day of events including, breakfast with an astronaut, photos, autograph and book signings, theatre lecture culminating in a Gala dinner.

What the papers had to say!

As well as newspaper publicity Don featured live on BBC radio Leicester, carried out interviews and was recorded for a University project.

Don Thomas Aldridge School Visit Courtesy Express & Star Newspaper. Thursday March 30th.

An astronaut has told Worcester schoolchildren that one of them could be the first to visit Mars.

Retired NASA astronaut Don Thomas told youngsters that someone from their generation would go to the red planet during an inspirational visit to Nunnery Wood Primary School.

Dr Thomas spent 44 days in space during four trips he undertook in the 1990s, during which he orbited the Earth 692 times.

He spoke to students from the school, along with some from Red Hill Primary School and Stanley Road Primary School.

 

Pupils dressed as astronauts and aliens to hear Dr Thomas tell them about how he lived, worked and played catch in space.

He told them how thrilling it was to be launched into space, describing it as “like going on a great, scary rollercoaster.”

He was at the school as part of a series of trips organised by Inspire Space and told pupils he had been inspired by another astronaut himself at the age of six.

Speaking to the Worcester News, Dr Thomas said: “From six years old I was focused on it.

 

“Then, we would land on the moon when I was in high school.

“That was a very positive reinforcement and inspirational moment for me.”

Dr Thomas said: “The highlight for every astronaut is looking at the Earth, just to see our planet.

“It changes the perception of the planet.

“You appreciate our planet is really fragile. We have to take better care of this planet.

“All these images I’ve seen in books and I’m looking out the window and it’s really amazing.”

He said he now visited dozens of schools a year and found children were as excited as ever about space.

He said: “We have some great missions in the future. This generation will be the ones landing on Mars, and going back to the moon.

“Space is something that young people are interested in.

“It’s a magical world. They love the idea of exploring new places and that’s what we are doing in space, exploring new places.

“The more people that can go up there to see our Earth the better off our planet will be.

 

“You would only have to look out of the window for 30 seconds and it would change you.”

After the talk, some of the youngsters received prizes for projects they had completed based around space.

The talk took place on Thursday, March 23.

Astronaut Fever hits Walsall. Article courtesy of the Chronicle (Walsall).

More to follow soon……..

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