NJAD220Becoming an astronaut is often seen as the very pinnacle of any space industry and never more than now is that the case in the UK, with UK ESA Astronaut Tim Peake currently in orbit; however being an astronaut is only one career path, within one of the many avenues in the UK space sector.

This was the message of the 'Not just an Astronaut' Day hosted by the National Space Academy at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

For the second year, the 'Not just an Astronaut' day invited 45 students from around the UK to take part in a series of activities, talks and tours; all designed to highlight the breadth of career opportunities in the space sector.

The challenges, which included an engineering challenge: designing and testing a rocket to see if it would survive its launch. A materials challenge: designing the best heat shield to help a spacecraft survive re-entry and a computing challenge: coding a temperature sensor on a makeshift Earth Observation satellite.

Each activity highlighted the different skills required, simulating the real processes that a scientist or engineering goes through on a day to day basis and the challenging nature of any role in the space industry.

With the goal of the day to highlight the multiple career paths, a careers fair was organised for the students to pose questions to companies such as the European Space Agency and the Satellite Applications Catapult.

Hosting the day at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory gave the students a chance to see the cutting edge space testing facilities of RAL Space, as well as the chance to try out their hand at driving a robotic rover.

The keynote speaker for the day was Libby Jackson, the UK's Space Agency Astronaut Flight Education Programme Manager, who spoke of her own journey from a young space enthusiast to working alongside Tim Peake, providing the students with a clear message:

'Do what you enjoy and follow your dreams, because they may come true'

When asked about the day one of the teachers who attended said:

'All the staff involved were very enthusiastic and shared their passion for the space industry with the students in a way that they were able to understand and get involved'