Six Hounslow students witnessed the historic launch of the Space X Falcon 9 rocket from Cocoa Beach, Florida last week, as part of a unique trip to NASA.

The sixth formers are all pupils at Aspirations academies in west London: Space Studio and Rivers Academy in Feltham, and Park Academy in nearby Hillingdon. Earlier in the school year the teens submitted their applications as part of a competitive process across the Trust’s six senior schools, the others of which are based in Dorset and Oxfordshire. Selected as much for their curiosity and interest as for their academic ability, the students’ costs were met entirely by Aspirations Academies Trust.

Co-leader of the trip, Simon Sterland said, “We take students who are going to get something out of the experience, whether that be in terms of their academic or personal development. The trip to NASA is often life changing and it’s always unique depending on NASA’s launch services programme. We were very fortunate to have witnessed the launch of PACE, especially since its scheduled launch was delayed.”

The twelve students participating in the space adventure watched from Cocoa Beach, next to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as PACE, NASA’s satellite mission to study ocean health, air quality, and the effects of a changing climate for the benefit of humanity, launched successfully into orbit at 1:33 am (EST) last Thursday.

“It was spine tingling,” said Rivers Academy student Kinza. “Standing on the beach after midnight watching the pattern of flashing lights from Cape Canaveral was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.”

Space Studio sixth former, Zain, was also impressed: “We’d been disappointed when the original launch was postponed but it was definitely worth the wait. When Falcon 9 blasted off it was like watching the sun rise at speed. And then the sky went black again and all you could hear was an echo of the rocket. When it reappeared heading back to Cape Canaveral it looked like it was preparing to land on us!”

As well as witnessing the launch the students visited local schools, toured the American Space Museum, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and Cape Canaveral Space Force Museum and enjoyed socialising with NASA engineers and scientists.

Park Academy student Amber, summed up the experience: “It’s been so inspiring to spend time learning about space exploration and its potential to change our world. I feel very lucky to have witnessed an engineering marvel.”

Co leader of the trip, Annabel O’Keefe added, “At Aspirations Academies Trust, we place a high value on experiences like these. High quality learning outside of the classroom can be transformative.”

To read more about the student’s NASA trip see: Aspirations Academies News

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