Hacking my way into space…

Unlimited Space Agency

In my role as Director of Human Space Flight Operations at the Unlimited Space Agency, this weekend I’m taking part in NASA’s Space Apps Challenge at the Met Office site in the UK.

It’s basically a global “hack” event being run by NASA’s Open Government initiative over the weekend 21-22 April during which challenges are set and (hopefully) completed. The challenge I’ve been set is set to “Hack your way into space.” I like a challenge…

Now it’s early days for us at UNSA so resources are limited – it’s basically me, a smart phone and a spaceship called Optimism. I need some help.

Fortunately help is at hand! The other thing UNSA is well equipped with is the support and advice of some amazing people who are leaders in the fields of space research and exploration and over the course of this weekend they’re going to be answering my questions about how to get there. They’ll be calling me from all over the world on Skype video calls which we’re hoping to stream here – we haven’t been able to hack the tech to do that yet. And if we can’t hack the Met Office’s kit to stream it we’ll certainly be uploading the videos to UNSA’s YouTube channel over the course of the weekend.

1100 GMT
Dr Alex Kumar: Alex is the European Space Agency research medical doctor based at the Concordia station in Antarctica. Alex will be calling from the most remote place on earth to answer my questions about his work there testing the limits of human physical and psychological endurance.

1400 GMT
Don Thomas: Don is an engineer, the Head of the Hackerman Academy of Mathematics & Science and between 1991 and 2007 was an NASA astronaut flying as a mission specialist on 4 space shuttle missions. I’m massively excited (and humbled) that Don, one of the world’s most accomplished and experienced astronauts, will be calling from the US to share his wisdom.

1500 GMT
Tim Peake: Tim is a European Space Agency astronaut currently training with NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) for a 5 day mission underwater as an aquanaut. Tim will be calling from the Johnson Space Centre to answer my questions about what I should be doing to prepare for space.

1600 GMT
Loredana Bessone:
Loredana is head of the European Space Agency’s Instructional Technologies, Special Skills Training, and Exploration Unit. She trains astronauts for space by creating space-like environments and situations on Earth. Loredana will be calling from Cologne to answer my questions about how to best work as a team to achieve my goal.


1000 GMT
Dr Andy Newsam: Andy is an astrophysicist based at Liverpool John Moores University and the Director of the National Schools Observatory project. Andy knows EVERYTHING ABOUT SCIENCE and will be calling to answer any questions any of us have about space and science.

1130 GMT
Dr Gail Iles (aka Dr Awesome): Gail is a condensed matter physicist and until recently was an astronaut instructor at the European Space Agency with over 500 parabolas flown onboard the A300 Zero-G Airbus (watch that video to the end!). Gail will be calling to answer my questions about how she got such an awesome job and what she thinks I should be doing to prepare for space.

1300 GMT
Deadline for getting into space.

If you want to ask any questions about space or science, then please post them below and I’ll try and get as many of them answered as possible.

If you’d like to follow my progress as I try to get to space over the two days, then I’ll be posting updates on twitter – follow me @unspaceagency

Hope you can join me – your support will be much appreciated. If you’ve got any tips yourselves then please do leave them in the comments below.

Right then! I’m off to Exeter and the Met Office to search for this secret launch facility I’ve been tipped off about. Wish me luck!

Director of Human Space Flight Operations, UNSA

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