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IOM Students attended Houston Space School

Tue, 18 Sep 2018

Gemma Tipper, Marc Podmore & Caitlin Gelder
Gemma Tipper, Marc Podmore & Caitlin Gelder

Three Isle of Man students who won scholarships to attend United Space School in Houston this summer have received certificates to celebrate their achievement.

Gemma Tipper, Caitlin Gelder and Marc Podmore attended the Department of Education, Sport and Culture headquarters in Peel Road, Douglas on Monday, where they were presented with the certificates by Minister Graham Cregeen MHK.

The students were chosen as the recipients of scholarships sponsored by Manx satellite firm, the ManSat Group, and spent two weeks in Houston, where they worked alongside peers from more than 20 countries on planning a simulated crewed mission to Mars, supported by NASA astronauts, engineers and scientists.

ManSat has awarded the scholarships since 2000, in cooperation with the DESC, with 35 Isle of Man students having now attended the Space School.

Caitlin and Marc both attend Castle Rushen High School.

Caitlin, who is studying maths, physics and biology at A-level, said: ‘United Space School was one of the most exciting and eye-opening experiences of my life. It allowed me to meet like-minded people from all over the world.

‘A moment which stands out was visiting the Apollo Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center. This was the room in which all the missions to the Moon were controlled from. This was breathtaking as it put everything we learned into perspective.

‘Another special moment was meeting astronaut Sunita Williams, who shared some of her stories with us of her time in space. She has such a positive outlook on life, and the challenges that she has faced, and has inspired me to push to achieve my goals and dreams in life. 

 ‘I was in the Gold team for the mission project, faced with the challenges of coordinating the finance, communication to Mars, designing treaties and ensuring that the mission agreed with space laws. I worked mostly on satellite communication but dipped into a bit of space law, which was a new aspect of the space industry I hadn't really considered as a career properly before.

‘I can't thank ManSat enough for giving me this life-changing opportunity. I would also like to thank the teachers and staff of the FISE for making the experience so special. Lastly, I’d like to thank the Giangrosso family for opening not only the doors to their home, but their hearts.’

Marc is studying maths, physics and chemistry and is aiming for a career in astrophysics after university.

He said: ‘This was by far the best two weeks of my life. The best aspect was the amazing friends I have made all over the world. The big events and trips were unforgettable such as visiting the Johnson Space Center. However, all the small, personal moments with friends are what made this trip really special.

‘I was on the Maroon Team. Our job was to get the crew from orbit to surface and back to orbit for both Earth and Mars. We also had to deliver all the cargo to Mars too.’

On graduation day, Marc and four other students were awarded Texas Flags, which were flown in their honour over the capitol building. These flags are awarded to students ‘who show exemplary teamwork, dedication, and leadership throughout their USS term’.

‘I was completely blown away and honoured to receive a flag,’ said Marc. ‘I’d like to thank everyone involved in USS 2018 for making it such an unforgettable experience, including the headteachers and mentors, all my fellow students and my host family, the Penrods, also my two housemates, David from Germany, and Sebastian from Costa Rica.’

King William’s College student Gemma is studying for the International Baccalaureate, for which she is taking three ‘higher level’ subjects – maths, physics and economics – and three ‘standard level’ subjects – Spanish, English literature & language, and visual arts.

She said: ‘My time at USS 2018 was the most incredible two weeks of my life. My favourite part was without a doubt the people I met, in particular my two housemates, Sofi from Argentina and Tara from Croatia. I already know that they and others will be good friends of mine for a very long time.

‘My favourite moment would have to be when we visited the observatory at Brazos Bend park and the sun set, so that it was completely dark save for the dim red lighting around the railings. Looking up and seeing all the stars and planets so clearly took my breath away.

‘Planning the mission to Mars was an incredibly complex task. I was part of the Blue Team, which oversaw exploration on the Martian surface, and while it’s certainly a big task to design a Mars space suit, it was surprisingly tricky to work out the best place for the toilet in the rover!

‘I would like to thank all at FISE, and the students, for ensuring Space School was an experience I could never possibly forget, and my host family and housemates for giving me a home-away-from-home in Houston.’

Mr Cregeen said: ‘Each year I listen in awe to the experiences of our Isle of Man scholars on their return from the United Space School and this year was no exception. It’s a wonderful opportunity that ManSat provides for our students, a chance to gain so much knowledge and insight into what is a fascinating industry – one in which, through the work of ManSat and others, the Isle of Man plays a leading role.’

Dr Jennifer Stone, ManSat’s Senior Manager for Regulatory Affairs, said: ‘Caitlin, Gemma and Marc were excellent ambassadors for the Isle of Man, and we are very proud of their achievements at the space school. We are sure this is just the beginning of great things for them in their future studies and careers. ManSat is very grateful to the DESC, the Island secondary schools, and King William’s College for their continued support of the scholarships.’


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