Two Isle of Man students enjoyed a summer they will never forget when they flew to Houston, Texas to plan a mission to Mars.
Daniel Comley from Ramsey Grammar School and David Sargent from Queen Elizabeth II High School in Peel spent two weeks in Houston at the United Space School after winning the annual Space School scholarships awarded by the ManSat Group.
To mark their achievement, Daniel and David and their families were invited to the Department of Education, Sport and Culture headquarters in St John’s, where they were presented with certificates by DESC political member Paul Craine MLC.
The USS is run by the Foundation for International Space Education (FISE) and the students are put into teams and tasked with planning a crewed mission to Mars, working alongside peers from more than 20 countries, with support from NASA astronauts, engineers, and scientists.
Daniel and David, who have just started Year 13, were joined in Houston by Ciara Sowerby, who won a ManSat scholarship to attend Space School in 2017.
This year Ciara was one of the mentors advising the teams.
Daniel is studying maths, biology, and economics at A-level and aims to study economics at university.
He said: ‘This experience has opened a lot of doors for me in the future.
‘My eyes were opened to the reach that the space industry has worldwide and the range of different people that it requires to function. It’s reaffirming to know that no matter my chosen profession, there will be opportunities for me.
‘It was amazing to talk to and learn from astronauts such as Mike Baker and prominent NASA figures like George Abbey; getting a tour from him, of a place named after him – George W.S. Abbey Rocket Park at Johnson Space Center – was so surreal.
‘Another highlight was making our final presentation – the pride I felt once we had stepped down from the stage was unparalleled. The experiences of American culture were incredible too, from baseball games to football matches to pool parties.
‘I want to extend massive thanks to ManSat for providing myself and David with this opportunity – I think it’s safe to say that it has genuinely changed my life.’
David is studying maths, further maths, physics and computer science at A-level and plans to study astrophysics at university.
‘The experience has reinforced my interest in Space,’ said David.
‘Going to the Johnson Space Center, and the tour by George Abbey, was incredible.
‘The hours were quite long, and it was very intense, but that was what we signed up for. But we also got to see a live baseball game and a football match too.
‘The thing that surprised me most was how close everyone became over such a short timeframe. We have made a lot of friends that will last a lifetime.
‘We were mostly mentored by previous space school graduates.
‘However, we met many great people from NASA who help with the program. We also had some fantastic talks from notable astronauts and people involved in space flight, such as Mike Baker and Ken Cameron.
‘Presenting our final presentations was very satisfying.
‘I’d like to thank ManSat again for an incredible opportunity.’
Ciara was a student at Ballakermeen High School when she attended Space School in 2017.
She added: ‘I loved working with the students. I mentored the team that was tasked with conducting experiments on the Martian surface and exploring the planet.
‘I was blown away by just how clever the whole class was – it made my job as a mentor even more enjoyable.
‘I would like to thank ManSat for giving me the opportunity to return to Space School as a mentor.’
The scholarships to attend the USS are awarded in cooperation with the DESC, with the first recipient in 2000 being Dr Jennifer Stone, who is now ManSat’s chief technical officer.
Jennifer said: ‘Organising the Space School scholarships and seeing the incredible adventures the students have in Houston is always one of our highlights of the year.
‘Daniel and David acquitted themselves so well and should be immensely proud of what they have achieved.
‘We are indebted once again to the Island’s secondary schools and King William’s College, along with the Department for Education, Sport and Culture, for their ongoing commitment to our scholarships.”
Mr Craine said: ‘What a wonderful experience for Daniel and David – this is something they will never forget and will be able to look back on with pride for many years to come.
‘They have proved to be superb ambassadors for their schools and the Isle of Man.
‘The Department is grateful to ManSat for continuing to provide these incredible opportunities for our students.
‘For this year’s Year 12 students, the competition to win scholarships to Space School 2024 is about to open – this is your opportunity to challenge yourself and follow in Daniel and David’s footsteps.’
l Visit www.unitedspaceschool.org for more information about the Space School and www.mansat.org for details of the company’s scholarships, and www.mansat.com for details on ManSat itself.