First week in space

Last week Jon, Alison (from Radiowaves) and I (Clare) visited four schools to find out what children between the ages of 7 and 11 already know about Space, which as it turns out, is quite a lot. All the schools, teachers and pupils were great, the Youutube clips of Gail spinning in Zero-g were a particular hit. I was excited about the fact that so many pupils knew about Black Holes… quite often there was debate about the difference between a worm hole and a black hole. But even the rather wonderful Horizon documentary couldn’t tell us exactly what black holes are or what happens inside them.

OK, none of the pupils mentioned ‘quantum gravity’, or the notion that at the bottom of a black hole is a singularity. But even the Nobel prize winning scientists on Horizon didn’t seem to know for sure what is at the bottom of a black hole either. So, this is all very good news for our project. It seems that when confronted with the infinity of Space and all the questions it poses we all may as well be about 8 years old.

Space exploration enriches and strengthens humanity’s future. Searching for answers to fundamental questions such as: ‘Where did we come from?’ ‘What is our place in the universe?’ and ‘What is our destiny?’ can bring nations together in a common cause, reveal new knowledge, inspire young people and stimulate technical and commercial innovation on Earth.

This is from the The Global Exploration Strategy, a summary of why going into space is important, created by fourteen space agencies and organisations on this world. I like the idea that art and science and perhaps especially art inspired by science is fuelled by the question, ‘where did we come from?’ </p>

The workshops are about planning a mission for Gail and Stephan, we’re their team and they will need
1. communications
2. food
3. entertainments
and of course
4. a mission

Most pupils so far seem to think that looking for aliens, (or to be more accurate, looking for life on other planets, not necessarily only intelligent life) is the best reason for risking all the dangers of equipment going wrong, explosions, arguing with the one person you have to share the tin can with and missing your family.

We asked everyone at the beginning of each workshop if they want to go into space and so far it seems about 70/30. I’m with the 30% who don’t fancy it much. OK. It’s exciting to discover new life and swim like a fish in air…  but I find it really difficult to imagine how it is even possible for a few human beings to inhabit such small spaces…when one glance out of the window reveals the enormity of… well… EVERYTHING. I’d never thought about it in this way before, but a good thing about the weather is that it hides a lot of very difficult questions behind a beautiful and ever changing screen.

Jon on the other hand is with the 70% who are up for the time-of-your-life adventure, growing 2 more inches and not being able to scratch your ears on a Space walk.

One pupil on Friday morning simply said in response to the question, “Do you want to go into Space”: “No. Cos it’s alright here.” Brilliant!

Another pupil said that the object they would take into space to remind them of home was an air freshner, specifically glade Apple Cinnamon I think. Note the Proustian insight here into the nature of memory and loss… a the more scientific frame of mind might wonder about the effect of micro gravity on the dissipation of methane clouds. What do you think for the title of the show, is ‘Farts in Space’ too low?

Finally, Chris has been feeding us remotely with ideas and inspiration, but we’re still missing him very much.

Thanks for reading…this was my first blog.