Students from Walton Girls High School had the chance to see what it takes to become an astronaut when they were visited by space scientist Dr Suzie Imber last week (Thursday 8th February).

Dr Imber, who is an associate professor of planetary science at the University of Leicester, was the winning contestant on the BBC2 TV series ‘Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?’ where she undertook a number of mental and physical challenges, competing against 11 other exceptional candidates to claim the title. Dr Imber will now receive a personal reference from former commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, to be considered as one of the next astronauts at the European Space Agency.

Dr Imber delighted students with tales of her experiences during the show, which included escaping from a confined capsule dropped into a pool, being placed in a centrifuge spinning five times at the force of gravity and simulations of the effects of g-force on the body.

The students then had the opportunity to see if they could make it as an astronaut themselves by taking part in a series of fun tests where they had to work in teams to fly and land a drone, coordinate through altered vision googles, build a paper tower structure and do step-ups whilst counting backwards.

Dr Imber’s talk inspired the girls at Walton to reach for the stars and aim to achieve the very best in whatever they want to do. Having been interested in space from a young age, Dr Imber has held posts at NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre and the University of Michigan, and is currently involved in instrument design and operation for ESA’s next mission to Mercury. Her achievements, however, do not stop there as she is also an elite rower and highly experienced mountaineer who identifies, charts and climbs un-named peaks in the Andes and Himalayas.

She said: “It’s wonderful to be able to visit students within schools and share my experiences with them.  I think one of the most important things we can tell young people is not to be afraid of failure – that is how we all learn and how we become more resilient. The main thing is to challenge yourself and to try your best and, if you fail, to get back up and try again.  I hope some of my experiences inspire young people to go on and achieve their own ambitions.”
Year 8 pupil, Brooke Leivers, said: “It was really inspirational to meet a real astronaut in person. I’ve learned a lot about space and how hard the training is to be an astronaut and scientist. I want to be a vet and her talk made me think that I can do that and whatever else I want to do if I work hard and apply myself.”

Assistant principal, Mr Hoad, organised the visit and said: “I thought I was well travelled and then you meet people like Suzie Imber and there is no comparison! She’s an aspirational role model for the girls at Walton and it’s great to have speakers like Suzie in to the academy to inspire interest in the sciences and to show how far they can take students in their careers.”