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Mission Discovery

Mission Discovery logo

Monday 18 to Friday 22 March 2019

To mark the formal opening of the Barton Science Centre, Tonbridge School hosted the renowned Mission Discovery educational programme in March 2019. The course was led by the International Space School Educational Trust (ISSET), and during the week two NASA astronauts and a team of leading scientists and postgraduate students were based at the school.

This was the first time that the course, inspired by NASA’s own development programme, had been hosted by a UK school

Mission Discovery gave young people from a range of schools, including Tonbridge, the opportunity to work together in teams to devise an experiment. The winning entry will ultimately be flown to, and tested on, the International Space Station.

The course culminated in a presentation and awards evening on Friday 22 March, in which the winning experiment was selected by an adjudicating panel which included the two astronauts , Dr Michael Foale CBE and Dr Steve Swanson, both former International Space Station commanders.

During the week, participants also learned about various aspects of space research, such as how the body adapts to weightlessness and the benefits to the planet of conducting experiments in space.

Mission Discovery also set students personal objectives such as working successfully in teams, delivering persuasive presentations and speaking confidently in public.

More stories about the Mission Discovery Week are available on the school's main News page.

Mission Discovery invites students from Years 9 to 13 to spend a week working in teams of six, under the guidance of NASA astronauts, NASA personnel, rocket scientists and professors. Winning experiments will be performed aboard the International Space Station.

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The goal is to design an experiment which could benefit the human race – whether it is on Earth, the Space Station, Mars, the Moon or beyond!

Key Speakers during Mission Discovery

Dr Steve Swanson

NASA astronaut Steve Swanson

A NASA astronaut and an engineer, Steve has flown on two Space Shuttle flights, STS-117 and STS-119, and has been the Commander of the International Space Station Expedition, which involved launch and landing in the Russian Soyuz capsule.

Steve has also served as a CAPCOM for ISS and Space Shuttle missions. He has logged over six months in space, travelled 83 million miles and completed four spacewalks. He has been awarded the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal.


Dr Julie Keeble

Dr Julie Keeble

Julie is a lecturer in the Institute of Pharmaceutical Science at King’s College London and is a jointly affiliated with the Centre for Human & Aerospace Physiological Sciences. Her research focuses on the role of sensory nerves, pain, inflammation and thermoregulation.

Julie is also ISSET’s Chief Scientist and is responsible for ensuring that all winning Mission Discovery experiments are launched to the International Space Station.

Dr Michael Foale CBE

Dr Michael Foale CBE

Michael was the first British born NASA Astronaut and he has been into space on six missions. He has served as Commander of the International Space Station, and played a major role in saving the Russian ‘Mir’ Space Station as it tumbled out of control around the earth, following the only collision in outer space. 

He received a PhD in astrophysics from Queens College, Cambridge and has been awarded a CBE. Michael’s senior roles with NASA include that of Deputy Administrator at NASA Headquarters, Chief of the Astronaut Office Expedition Corps and Assistant Director of the Johnson Space Centre.