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By Alex Tyrrell on

Nasa’s Charlie Bolden inspires children to reach for Mars

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden told hundreds of young visitors about upcoming missions, deploying the Hubble Space Telescope and the emotion of his final space mission as part of a Royal Society event for schools.

The former Shuttle astronaut, head of the world’s largest civil space agency, was interviewed by Dr Lucie Green, a Royal Society University Research Fellow based at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, who has just published a book about the Sun and is an advisor to the Science Museum.

He wowed hundreds of young visitors to the Science Museum this month about the forthcoming asteroid mission OSIRIS-RExdeploying the Hubble Space Telescope, and the emotion of his final space mission, as part of a Royal Society event for schools.

After being introduced in the IMAX by Science Museum Director, Ian Blatchford, Bolden talked to the audience of 380 teenagers about life in space and how he became an astronaut.

When asked how he could be certain that astronauts could make it home from a journey to Mars, Bolden described the detailed preparations, such as precursor missions to the Moon and Mars, to make sure that they are ready.

However, he said that NASA still has many challenges to solve for such a mission and encouraged the students to join in the effort to find solutions.

In response to one question from the young audience, Bolden gave a heartfelt account of how society can – wrongly – influence young people to think that certain careers and vocations are not for them.

He emphasised that many different skills that are required within the space industry, such as fashion, design, accountancy, to underline that everyone should feel that they have something to offer organisations like NASA – especially girls.

‘Charlie Bolden was inspirational – the best speaker that I have ever heard in the IMAX’, commented Dr Kenny Webster, Head of Learning Operations at the Science Museum.

His appearance followed a range of recent space themed events, from a ESA fashion show to a visit by Buzz Aldrin, a celebration of the launch of Tim Peake, the 25th anniversary of Helen Sharman’s pioneering mission, and a Royal Society event on human space exploration.

Bolden made a similarly stirring visit to the Museum last year and, in another event, NASA’s Chief Scientist, Dr Ellen Stofan, discussed the future of Mars missions.

The Science Museum welcomes 380,000 children on educational trips each year, more than any other UK museum. Of these, 170,000 are from London and they represent the Museum’s most diverse audience, with 49% coming from a Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic background.

In October the Museum will launch its spectacular new interactive gallery, Wonderlab, with the aim of increasing the number school children visiting each year from 100,000 to 200,000.