DSC 0766 220A career in the UK Space Industry can be extremely varied. This was the aim of the 'Not just an Astronaut' space careers day hosted at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. 

54 students from schools around the UK, some travelling as far as from Wales to attend, were invited to take part in a series of activities and tours designed to show them what else they can do if they want to have a career in the space sector, other than being an astronaut.

The day began with a talk by Dr Eleanor Barber, a member of the RAL Space Department, whose own career has taken her from building targets in the nano scale (smaller than the width of a human hair) for one of the world's most powerful lasers (Pettawatt power delivered in Femptoseconds!) to building cryogenic equipment for the ALMA telescopes in Chile, which have to be cooled to temperatures close to 0 Kelvin (Absolute Zero -274 degrees) in order to see further into the Universe than ever before.

Each year 8 student then took part in a series of activities and challenges designed to stimulate their thinking about potential opportunities: from designing, building and testing rockets (made from spaghetti and marshmallow) to building a temperature sensor for a satellite, using an Aurduino computer. They also learned about how scientists use spectroscopes to analyse the light from different gas sources, so that they can identify and classify exoplanets, such as the UK Twinkle mission and even got to learn how to drive and control a robotic rover. 

The activities of the day were supplemented by a tour of the RAL Space testing facilities, where the students got an up close look at how spacecraft, detectors and instruments are placed in an environment to simulate the extreme conditions of space, to ensure they can survive and operate for the entirety of their lifetime.

There was no rest for the students, even during their break for lunch, where they were invited into a Careers fair, where representatives from the Harwell Space Cluster and beyond, such as: Airbus Defence and Space, the European Space Agency, the Satellite Applications Catapult, showcased the jobs and the different avenues available and the students were then able to bombard them with questions.

Thank you for having us on the 'Not Just an Astronaut Day' we all had a brilliant time and there has been a real buzz amongst the students'   Ben Hughes - Head of Year 8 The Bishop of Llandaff