An audience with Helen Sharman - first Briton in space
How do you become a space explorer? In May 1991, Helen Sharman became the first British astronaut when she launched on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. She spent 8 days orbiting the Earth, living and working on the MIR Space Station.
Come and hear the story of her incredible journey – from answering the advert on the radio, learning Russian and the meticulous training, through to launch and landing. Find out how weightlessness feels, the importance of team spirit, and how you readjust to life on Earth.
- This is a 90 minute event - 45 minute talk + 45 minute question and answer session.
- This event is recommended for children aged 10+ due to the content, and duration of the session
- Ticket for the event includes time in We The Curious from 1.30, and after the talk.
£20 adult, £18 concession
2nd floor, We The Curious
2.30 (90 minute event - 45 min talk, 45 min Q&A)
How to book tickets:
- Click on the 'buy tickets' link
- Select 'Helen Sharman' from the drop-down menu - you don't need to buy a general entry ticket to We The Curious
- Or give us a call on 0117 915 1000 (Monday -Friday 9-5)
In his Foreword to Helen’s autobiography Seize The Moment, Arthur C Clarke writes “Her account of the hours before the launch and the actual sensations during ascent into orbit is so gripping that any reader will feel a vicarious involvement. This is exactly what it must be like”.
On 15 December 2015, Britain’s second astronaut Major Time Peake began his mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Helen joined Professor Brian Cox and Dara Ó’Briain to commentate on the live docking of the Soyuz rocket with the ISS on BBC TV’s Stargazing Live. She was invited back again on 18 June 2016 for Tim Peake’s safe return to Earth.
Following her own space flight, Helen became a science communicator and corporate speaker. She won numerous prizes for radio and television programmes and for her inspirational talks worldwide on teamwork, STEM, science communication and motivation.
Helen often meets science teachers who were inspired to study Science after hearing her: her speech changed them, and now they pass on their passion and expertise to the next generations of young scientists and engineers.
Helen believes “We should push forward, not only our individual boundaries, but also the boundaries of what humans believe is possible. People are the biggest limitations in our own lives. There's a huge amount we can do and we should make the best use of our lives for the benefit of the world.”
Responding to a radio advertisement, Helen was one of only two Britons selected for astronaut training. 13,000 people applied. Helen didn’t think she stood a chance of being chosen. But she was just the type of calm, steady, practical, friendly, professional they were looking for. The programme, named Project Juno, was a co-operative arrangement between the Soviet Union and a British company set up to manage the Mission.
Helen underwent a rigorous selection process with psychological and medical assessments, technical understanding and practical skills. This was followed by 18 months of intensive flight training in Star City near Moscow.
She first had to learn Russian, and got to know the cosmonauts’ families, along with preparing for weightlessness, learning how to cope inside a cramped space capsule, G Forces, how to deal with a landing in the sea and training for all the possible scenarios which might happen in a spacecraft, in orbit, travelling at 17,500 miles an hour.
During the launch, Helen carried out spacecraft operations. Once in space, her tasks included medical, agricultural and chemical experiments, materials’ testing, Earth observation work and operating an amateur radio link with British school students. Fitted in with this were her media interviews and an unexpected live telephone conversation with President Mikhail Gorbachev.
Coping with risk was a daily activity. Teamwork was a vital element in the success of the Mission. Helen was not quite 28 years old when she became an astronaut.
Helen has not returned to Space but, like every other astronaut, she would love to go into Space again, experiencing the weightlessness, the camaraderie ……... and the views.
Born in Sheffield, Helen Sharman received her BSc in Chemistry at Sheffield University. She worked in Research & Development for GEC before moving to Mars Confectionery, where she became a Research Technologist working on chocolate and ice cream. More recently, Helen managed a research group at the National Physical Laboratory in London. She now works full-time at the Department of Chemistry, Imperial College University of London.
Helen recorded the Audioguide for the acclaimed Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum, London.
In July 2015, she spoke at a special event for children (aged 5-95!) at the Royal Institution in London. Co-presented by TV presenter Dallas Campbell, the event was entitled To Infinity and Beyond: the story of the spacesuit and it included part of Helen’s own spacesuit, generously loaned by the National Space Centre in Leicester.
Top image credit: National Waterfront Museum Swansea
Helen Sharman landing on return from MIR 1991