Dr Sarah BeardsleyDr Sarah Beardsley is Head of Space Engineering and Technology at RAL Space.

RAL Space (the space research group at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory) is home to world class space research and technology development with involvement in over 210 space missions! Sarah leads a team of 50 scientists, engineers and managers who design, build and test instruments that go into or look out at space.


Hundreds of students join us from all over the UK every year to take part in our careers conferences. We explore ways to get into the space sector; through workshops and keynotes with people working in the industry.


Career Conference Space Centre Sarah Beardsley "You are here"Sarah joined us at our latest year 10 careers conference at The National Space Centre to talk spacesuits, writing to NASA, astronomy and getting into the space sector. She began with a picture of a galaxy much like ours, and a tiny label pointing to a speck below its centre; “you are here.” Nothing like a bit of perspective to get us thinking.

After the keynote, we opened the floor to questions. This is what year 10 asked…



Why did you want a career in space?
I really liked the moon. I thought it was fascinating. I wanted to go to space. When I was young I actually wrote to NASA asking about how to become an astronaut, and they replied. Astronomy and astrophysics were two popular routes for mission specialist astronauts so that’s what I did!

Although I didn’t get to be an astronaut I have worked on some amazing projects and missions from here on earth; which has the added bonus of being safer than going into space!


How many people have died going to space?
General Manager of the National Space Academy, Dr. Kierann Shah, had some vague figures to hand which we’ve clarified below:

Over 530 people have been to space (558 as of this date). 18 have died in space (correct) and about 11 (actually 13) have died in training… you can work out the percentages and compare that to the safety of car or plane travel…


Do you think we’ll go to the moon again?
Yes, and I think it’s important that we do. We discovered so much on those first trips to the moon and I think it’s important that we go back and try to uncover more. I believe it would be a natural stepping stone to Mars.


How long did it take you to do your PhD?
Three years, but it can take a lot longer and you can do a PhD part-time if you want to. There are lots of options.


What’s been your biggest achievement in your career?
Wow, that’s a big question. I would say working on the Solar Dynamic Observatory. Images from the SDO were making a real impact for people on Earth in terms of our understanding of the sun. Not just that, but the team had such an enjoyable time. When we completed the project it was a real testament to the team; it had been challenging work and so it was a wonderful feeling. We had all worked together so well.


And a couple of questions from us…


Do you still enjoy your job?
Yes. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t. Every day is different and it’s really exciting to be part of. I love doing days like this because it reminds me how I got here. It’s great to see the next generation filled with so much enthusiasm.


What other things, outside of your academic studies have prepared you for a career in the space sector?
I mentioned teamwork before. Skills like that are so important. Communication, collaboration; all those skills that you can’t learn from a textbook or in a lab. Working with people, trying new things; these are all important for a career in the space sector.

Enjoying things outside of that environment is key. I do some work with the scouts, who are a similar age group to the students here today and they actually gave me some tips for my presentation!


Main image: The Science and Technology Facilities Council 


Student? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have a question for Dr. Sarah Beardsley, or one of our team, about careers in the space sector.

Teacher? Talk to us today about joining us for our next careers event in 2019 or bringing your class for a masterclass in 2018/19. We have options for 11 – 19 year olds and can adapt the content for each age group and students’ levels of ability.

Working in the industry? If you love science and engineering as much as we do, please get in touch about leading a workshop or keynote in 2019.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 0116 2582 147 / nationalspaceacademy.org

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