Mission Discovery space education program blasts off in Perth in July

Max Blenkin

To inspire the next generation of space scientists, technicians and astronauts, an education program that includes an actual NASA astronaut and a NASA program manager is coming to Australia later this year.

That’s called Mission Discovery, a five-day space and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) challenge, which will be held at Curtin University in Perth in July.

Other Mission Discovery courses are planned for Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, Townsville and Newcastle next year.

Mission Discovery is delivered by the International Space School Education Trust (ISSET), a UK-registered charity founded in 1998. It started in the UK in 2012 and is aimed at year 7-10 students with an interest in science, technology and space. Courses have been held in the UK, US, Australia and India.

Student participants work in small groups to develop a science experiment that could be launched into space.


The winning team’s experiment will actually go into space and be conducted by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) within two years of the program.

Already 20 experiments from Mission Discovery courses have gone to the ISS on topics such as the effectiveness of antibiotics on E. coli in space and carbon dioxide consumption of cacti in microgravity.


The Mission Discovery team for the Perth course includes astronaut Steve Swanson, who commanded ISS and Space Shuttle missions. He’s also conducted four space walks.

Also participating is senior NASA official Sarah Murray, who is involved in development of the new Orion space vehicle that will return men to the moon. She’s also held roles in astronaut training and mission control.

"Mission Discovery allows Aussie teens to be exposed to astronauts, NASA personnel and scientists. We focus on skills that these students will need throughout their lives,” she said.

Earlier Mission Discovery courses have involved other astronauts, among them British/American astrophysicist Dr Michael Foale, veteran of missions aboard the ISS and Russian Mir space station.

“Mission Discovery is the most complete and exciting educational program I have worked with,” he said.

“I’m always excited to see where the students' imagination takes them and watch them develop throughout the week. When I was young, I would have loved the chance to have an experiment flown in space.”

Mission Discovery bookings can be made through Latitude Group Travel. Individual cost is $793.10.

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