Physics pupils have an out of this world experience on NASA trip

Fifth year, lower sixth and upper sixth Physics pupils got an in-depth and unforgettable look into space exploration and the life of an astronaut as they visited NASA and the Kennedy Space Centre.

The trip started with a relaxing morning on Cocoa Beach before pupils moved on and took part in an astronaut training programme involving a multi-axis trainer and a micro-gravity wall. There was also the chance to get involved with a simulated shuttle mission from take-off to the mission to launch a satellite to landing – with various pupils acting out the roles of ground control and the flight crew. The volunteers had a script to follow and they were able to monitor a visual display of what the shuttle was doing throughout the mission.

NASA trip 2016 - NASA sign

Day two saw a physics lesson on freefall and terminal velocity take place followed by a chance for everyone to have a freefall experience of their own in the wind tunnel. An airboat ride at Boggy Creek took the travellers out into the hot and sunny weather where they spotted lots of different kinds of wildlife.

A visit to the Kennedy Space Centre on the third day saw pupils spend the morning at the wonderful Atlantis exhibit where they learnt about the history of shuttle development, all that was achieved through the shuttle programme and the astronauts that were involved. They also had a go in a simulator to get an idea of what a take-off feels like in a shuttle.

Lunch was spent with astronaut Ken Cameron who entertained guests with anecdotes of life in space – one of which was that it takes a few months of returning to gravity to realise that you can’t just give an object a gentle push sideways to pass it to someone!

NASA trip 2016 - ground control

A bus tour to the assembly building and launch pads, a visit to the Saturn V rocket exhibit and an IMAX trip through NASA’s history rounded off day three.

Day four was spent at Universal Studios which included a three hour tour which had pupils and teachers fascinated as they went behind the scenes to see the cars for the rides being stripped down, repaired and then put through their paces. Many rides were a 3D IMAX simulator type experience in conjunction with the ride itself and it was surprising how little you actually moved at times!

The final day involved a visit to Gatorland where pupils took in a couple of shows and saw lots of alligators – a sight that had evaded them on their trip to Boggy Creek. The highlight for many was ‘alligator jumping’ as they were astounded how far the animals will jump out of the water for food! The day, and trip, was rounded off with an all-important trip to the Florida Mall!

NASA trip 2016 - simulator

Head of Physics Mrs Heather Fenton was delighted with how the trip went and the experiences that the pupils encountered and remarked that it was superb with “a great hotel, great weather and, of course, great pupils!”

More photos of the trip can be found on our Flickr account.

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