On the afternoon of Friday, 28th September, we were delighted to welcome Mark Shuttleworth into School as guest speaker to our year 10 students (aged 14-15 years).
Mark is the founder of ‘Ubuntu’, a free operating system for desktops and servers. In April 2002 he became the first African in space when he flew as a cosmonaut member of the crew of Soyuz mission TM34 to the International Space Station (I.S.S.).
Mr Shuttleworth began his talk by telling students “you can do anything in life” and he encouraged them to “always strive to be great at what you do”. He then went on to talk of his earlier success with a company specialising in digital certificates and cryptology and how he invented the secure ‘padlock’ which appears on our computers today. Following this success in his mid-twenties, Mr Shuttleworth found himself in the fortunate position to be able to do anything he wanted and his “big dream in life was always to fly in space”. The students listened with fascination as Mr Shuttleworth described the time he spent in Russia, going through two weeks of medical tests getting “probed and prodded” before spending a further eight months of training. This covered everything from being weightless, getting used to the water inside his ears moving around and making him sick and how to get out of a capsule if it landed in the sea. Mr Shuttleworth also described the difficulties he faced whilst living in Russia, the lengthy time that the negotiations took and having to learn to speak Russian just to get by day to day.
Speaking about the launch, which took place in Kazakhstan, Mr Shuttleworth said “It is like a bear is sitting on your chest. You get pushed into your seat so hard that it feels like your weight is four times what you actually weigh”. It took two days to get to the I.S.S. in very cramped conditions which he described as “three men crammed into the front of a Mini with their knees up”. Mr Shuttleworth then spent eight days at the I.S.S. Whilst there he had four experiments to complete, one of them being to try and find an efficient way to measure the metabolism of astronauts.
Mr Shuttleworth showed the students pictures of the earth from the I.S.S. which is 200km up, and told them that the I.S.S. orbited the earth 16 times a day. He told how the best way to stop things floating round was to stick velcro on everything. The best way to go to sleep was to stick yourself to the roof! By far the biggest laughs came when Mr Shuttleworth described how to go to the toilet in space!!
Speaking about re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, Mr Shuttleworth described it as “kind of crazy”. He spoke about molten metal running over the windows and the G force building up as they fell at 300 metres per second. On landing it took 45 minutes to actually get out of the capsule and he described feeling weak because of having no gravity for so long.
Student, Isla Callister-Wafer, said “Did you know you can drown in space? This is one of the many things Mr Shuttleworth told us when he came to speak on Friday. We were so lucky to have the opportunity to listen to his amazing stories and ask him all the questions that we’ve always wanted to ask an astronaut”. She went on to say “Space seems so far away and to have met someone who has ventured into it was a once in a lifetime experience. His talk was inspirational and although sadly very few of us are likely to go into space, he taught us that if there is something that you’re passionate about, try your greatest, strive for the best and reach the cutting edge.”
The Head, Sue Moore, said “Students were spell bound by Mr Shuttleworth such that when the bell went for the end of School, they wanted to stay on to hear more. Some students were able to remain a further half an hour and Mr Shuttleworth was generous with his time, sharing his experiences. He answered every question asked and gave us a real flavour of what it was like to be in space. His overall message was to decide what you want to do and go for it!”
Photograph – left to right – Elena Reid, Kate Anderson, Chloe Shimmin, Danny Shefford, Isla Callister-Wafer, Arran Gimbert, Mark Shuttleworth, Will Quirk, Fred Atherton, Kieren Rice, Connor Gilbert.