Reach for the stars with NASA and ISSET

In this latest addition to Relocate Global’s International Education and Schools Fair library, Fiona Murchie meets Chris Barber and Sarah Murray to explore the exciting STEM opportunities available to all.

ilhouette group of young traveler and backpacker watched the star and milky way on top of the mountain with twilight sky. He enjoyed traveling and was successful when he reached the summit.
The “Mission Discovery: Space & Stem with ISSET and NASA” webinar focuses on unlocking every young person’s science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) potential. 

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A launchpad for STEM careers

Fiona Murchie, whose own career has focused on supporting young people, individuals and global companies to flourish, welcomes Sarah Murray, the International Space Station’s Education Trust’s (ISSET) Head of Operations speaking live from Houston, and Chris Barber, Founder and Chief Executive of ISSET.Together, Chris and Sarah, who is a former NASA Deputy Chief of Robotics - Crew Systems, on the International Space Station and who worked most recently on the Orion project, discuss the opportunities schools and individuals have to take science beyond the classroom with NASA and ISSET.  They offer a rousing challenge and compelling reasons why all students and young people can unlock their incredible potential in NASA’s ‘you can do it’ pioneering spirit

Inspiring passion and purpose

Introducing the work of ISSET, which he founded in 1998, former teacher Chris Barber explained that the education trust looks to “inspire young people by bringing them into contact with the people at the very heart of the human space programme.”ISSET runs a number of initiatives, including:
  • Mission Discovery, a series of international summer schools
  • the Launch Prize for schools
  • Space to Learn, a bespoke live virtual show with guest astronaut.
All are linked to humanity’s largest science and technology exploration programme, open to everyone and aim to inspire people to have better future lives.Mission Discovery programmes are led by astronauts, NASA leaders and scientists. They bring young people into contact with people passionate about STEM and space exploration in what is also an amazing opportunity to create experiments that NASA could fly and carry out on the ISS.“This programme is about how you can get your ideas and experiences carried out in space,” says Chris Barber. Just two weeks ago, NASA launched a module of ISSET experiments from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, USA. These are being conducted right now by astronauts as they orbit Earth. Two more modules were launched this week, bringing ISSET’s total to over 50 student experiments launched into space.

A global programme

As a partner with UNESCO, ISSET is able to take its Mission Discovery Summer Schools all over the world. Focusing on STEM, space industries and personal development, thousands of young people across Africa, Asia and the US, and in countries including the UK, Scandinavia, India, Singapore, China, Australia and Mongolia have benefited.Retired astronaut and author Scott Kelly is one of the world’s most influential spokespeople for science. A veteran of four space flights, commander on three ISS expeditions and one of the first to spend an entire year in space, Scott is among NASA personnel who have visited these events as part of the Mission Discovery project.He is one of 60 astronauts and cosmonauts who have been directly involved in ISSET’s programmes to work with young people all around the world. “It was great to have Scott on the team,” says Sarah. “Scott is really, really interested in working with the students and passing on to everyone what he has learned. This is a special team of astronauts and NASA personnel. They are those folks that really want to get out there and inspire.”

Looking up and around for opportunities to thrive

“Mission Discovery is an amazing programme that allows students to be exposed to astronauts, NASA personnel and scientists,” Sarah continues. “We focus on skills that these students will need throughout their lives.”“It’s important for the young people we reach today to understand that all astronauts and NASA leaders were at one point boys and girls in ordinary classrooms – just like themselves,” adds Chris. “They did things for themselves that every young person in every classroom can do for themselves to equip themselves for the future they would want.”The Mission Discovery Space and STEM Summer School in 2023 at King’s College University, London, is an exciting opportunity for 14-18 year olds to explore their passions and purpose.Reinforcing the role of women and girls in STEM, NASA astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lidenburger will be there to help students go beyond their expectations and do something extraordinary.“What is really good about the King’s College London Summer School is that it brings together people from across the continents,” says Sarah. “It is available to anyone who wants to join. The other thing I’d like to add is that you see Dottie [Dorothy Metcalf-Lidenburger] here. I love it when we get our female astronauts on the programme.“But sometimes what folks don’t understand about space is that there are people who enjoy space, who maybe don’t want to be an astronaut, but who want to learn about it and work within it.“You can do just about anything that you do on Earth in space: you can be a nutritionist for example. If your goal is to be working in space in any capacity, you are who we would like to be working with.” 

Moving beyond borders

As well as putting young people on track to a career in space and STEM, Mission Discovery is about acquiring and understanding the importance of transferable skills, like teamwork and communication, creativity and self-motivation. It is also a fantastic opportunity to help fire young people’s imagination about what is possible for all of us, as Sarah explains. “When I talk about my career, I’d like to make sure that you guys know that what I’m thinking is that I came from a place where I never dreamed I would be doing when I first even got to NASA.“I grew up in St Louis, Missouri, I had four brothers, and we did have some very hard times. So, when I first got to NASA, I could not believe I would be working in Mission Control sending commands to the space station and directing the ISS on its trajectory.“This is something I want you guys out there listening to know and understand. You can do things even if you can’t envision it. You need to envision it. If you can see it, more than likely you can do it.”

Watch the full webinar and find out more about how you as an educator, employer, parent or student can get involved.


Find out more about international education and schools options in Relocate Global's International Education and Schools' Guide.

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