Mission Discovery lands at Tonbridge School

NASA astronauts will be at Tonbridge School in March to lead a week of exciting activities for young people from a range of schools.

Tonbridge is the first UK school to be hosting the week-long ‘Mission Discovery’ course, which will take place between Monday 18 and Friday 22 March.

Inspired by NASA’s own development programme, Mission Discovery sees participants working together in small teams to devise an experiment. The winning entry will then be built by King’s College London and NASA, before being flown to the International Space Station, where the experiment will be carried out by astronauts.

The two astronauts taking part in the Mission Discovery Week at Tonbridge are Dr Michael Foale CBE, the first British born NASA astronaut who has been into space on six missions, and former International Space Station commander Dr Steve Swanson.

Bill Burnett, the school’s Head of Science, said: “Mission Discovery is a truly exciting prospect and we are thrilled to be hosting the event at Tonbridge. Students have the incredible incentive of producing an experiment to be flown into space, but will also be inspired by meeting some extraordinary experts, working in teams and developing their innovation and presentation skills.

“All those taking part will, I’m sure, have a fantastic time.”  

Mission Discovery is the creation of ISSET, the International Space School Educational Trust, a UK charity which delivers learning opportunities for people of all ages. Previous experiments sent by ISSET to the International Space Station includes work on genetics, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

The event includes a three-day programme for Lower Sixth pupils, and one-day activities for Year 9 and Year 10 students. The course will culminate in a presentation and awards evening on Friday 22 March, in which the winning experiment will be selected by an adjudicating panel.

Schools taking part, in addition to Tonbridge, include The Marsh Academy, The Judd School, The Skinners’ School, Skinners’ Academy, Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar School and Weald of Kent Grammar School.

In addition to the astronauts, a team of scientists and postgraduate students will also be helping to manage activities. Speakers during the week include Dr Julie Keeble, ISSET’s Chief Scientist and a Lecturer in Pharmacology at King’s College London.

Following Mission Discovery Week, the school’s Barton Science Centre will receive its official opening in an event on Saturday 23 March.


  • Barton Science Centre