Sir William Borlase's Grammar School

UK Space Agency Visit

National Space Academy visit to Borlase 

On Friday the 12th of January, Robin Mobbs from the National Space Academy came to Borlase to give a series of talks and activities about space, and how we explore, survive, and understand it. The day ranged from calculating the elliptical orbit of a plant, to trying on soviet cold war space suits, and provided a day of education and entertainment.

The first talk of the day revolved around the technology of space, and how it has adapted and evolved over the years. Robin Mobbs passed around a piece of a satellite that had come back from space to demonstrate how light the materials and parts that they send up have to be in order to keep the costs down, as sending one kilogram into space costs roughly £16,000. He also showed how spacecraft dissipate heat on reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, by heating one side of an insulation panel from the outside of a space shuttle, that had again been to space, and showing that the other side was still stone cold.

We transitioned to space exploration, not only how astronauts conduct research on the ISS, but how we are exploring deeper into space using robots and rovers. We started by analysing footage from the Perseverance rover on Mars, and how it shows that Mars, at least at some point, checked all of the boxes to accommodate life. We also learnt about the human aspect of space exploration and research, and what it would take to become an astronaut. Some of us got the opportunity to try on an old, Soviet era space suit, and we spent 15 minutes doing some basic astronaut aptitude tests. Turns out it’s quite difficult to be an astronaut.

Finally, we ended the day by focusing on aerodynamics and engineering. We first drew up graphs and learnt about Space X’s Falcon heavy rockets, and learnt more about the future of space travel, and its commercial uses. We then moved onto building and then firing our own rockets. We learnt about the aerodynamics of fin stabilisation on rockets, and how the placement of the fins on a rocket changes how it will fly. We were then put into groups to put this knowledge to the test, along with our own ingenuity, and built our own miniature rockets to be launched on the field.

Overall, the day gave everyone an excellent insight into all of the ins and outs of space, from the theoretical and mathematical, to the practical and adventurous side.

Joe Cockroft, Year 12