Helen Sharman visit to The Abbey

Richard, Jeff and Elon may well be pleased with their latest space exploits but we at The Abbey got to meet a real-live British Astronaut of some fame last week. Helen Sharman gave a 45 minute talk with slides of her time in space on MIR – 30 years ago this year – to our Senior School students.

Inspiring, fascinating, informative and pretty amusing at times. Our students lapped up her stories, the science behind the trip and the stunning pictures taken in orbit. This was followed by some pretty penetrating questions posed to Helen by our students and staff.

Helen then went on a tour of our Physics, Chemistry and Biology laboratories ending up at the Museum space for a light lunch with 10 of our top student scientists. The excitement was palpable and Helen was an amazing, calm and considerate guest of honour.

We walked up to the Junior School to meet with Nisha Kaura. Julia and Ishita toured Helen with aplomb around the new spaces, the Fab Lab, the Junior Science lab, the computer room and ended up at The Space where the Lower III’s performed a song for her. Then it was into the Junior School hall for a short talk to the whole school followed by some extremely enthusiastic students posing questions. Once again, the excitement was palpable and everyone was so happy to meet the first British astronaut in space.

The official opening of the Junior School SPACE Project followed with the great and good in our community, our Governors, Fellows and representatives of the builders, architects and contractors – along with a few parents – in attendance. Helen said a few words and then officially ‘cut the ribbon’ to mark this auspicious occasion. A plaque was unveiled in the reception area too. (Earlier this year Miranda Krestovnikoff (1991) opened these same facilities ‘virtually’ and so a plaque was unveiled outside the Fab Lab to mark this occasion).

All the VIPs were invited in to sample the amazing space-themed cakes and refreshments. All VIPs were afforded a tour of the new facilities and a number of staff and students stayed behind to make sure that this experience was properly showcased and enjoyed by all.

Helen so enjoyed her time with us and was one of the last guests to depart. She wanted us to thank everyone involved in the planning of her visit and left with fond memories of her interactions with our entire community.