NASA astronaut to lecture at the University of Leicester

NASA Astronaut Jeff Hoffman

Students to get unique insight into human space flight for new course modules

‘This is the first time a UK university has attracted an astronaut in a teaching role and will be the UK's only degree course with elements taught by a lecturer who has actually travelled in space’ - Professor Martin Barstow, Head of Physics and Astronomy

Left: Jeff Hoffman, prior to his 1990 flight on the Space Shuttle Columbia (mission STS-35). Image courtesy of NASA.

Jeff Hoffman, the 64-year-old former NASA astronaut with five space missions and over 20 million miles of space travel under his belt is to teach a new generation of physicists about human space flight and robotic missions.

He has been seconded to the University of Leicester's Physics and Astronomy department to be a guest lecturer. This is the first time a UK university has attracted an astronaut in a teaching role and will be the UK's only degree course with elements taught by a lecturer who has actually travelled in space.

Professor Martin Barstow, Head of the Physics Department said this was a terrific coup for the University which houses Europe’s biggest academic space research facility. The renowned Physics and Astronomy department has previously won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education and been lauded for its advanced thinking. Its work led to the creation of the National Space Centre in Leicester.

Dr Hoffman said: “I originally came to the University of Leicester because of the world-class reputation of Leicester's X-Ray Astronomy group and have enjoyed continuing personal and professional ties with University personnel.

“I hope the next decades will see increased UK participation in space exploration and would love to see the University of Leicester play a leading role. I look forward to sharing my experience of space flight with students, giving them an understanding of what is going to be required for what we hope will be a renaissance inof space exploration, and in particular to share my ideas about future synergy between humans and robots in this exciting enterprise."

Professor Barstow added:

”Jeff is undoubtedly one of NASA's most experienced astronauts and he will bring some of that expertise to help us here with the development of new modules on human space flights and the interaction between robots and humans in space. As the world gears up for a return to the moon and the start of a global exploration strategy to explore Mars with robots and eventually humans, the course taught by Jeff will give our students unique training and expertise to allow them to become part of this exciting endeavour.

“This is an exciting opportunity for students to be inspired by space- to hear first hand experiences of journeys into space from someone who has previously worked at Leicester.

“I have known Jeff for several years because of his close association with Leicester, having studied here in the seventies. I knew he was keen to return. It was just a question of getting the subject matter and the timing right."

Dr Jeff Hoffman was born in New York and studied at Amherst College, Harvard and Rice Universities. His doctoral work at Harvard involved the design, construction, testing and flight of a balloon-borne low energy gamma ray telescope. From 1972-75 during post doctoral work at the University of Leicester, he worked on several X-ray astronomy rocket payloads.

During his last year at Leicester, he was project scientist for the Medium-Energy X-ray experiment on the European Space Agency's EXOSAT satellite and played a leading role in the proposal and design studies for this project. He received an honorary degree from the University in 1997.

After working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Centre for Space Research, he was selected by NASA in 1978 and became an astronaut a year later in August 1979. As an astronaut, he made five missions to space on Shuttles, Discovery, Columbia (twice), Atlantis and Endeavour. On the latter, the Hubble Space Telescope was captured, serviced and restored during a record five space walks by four astronauts.

He last flew on the Columbia Shuttle in February / March 1996. In all he has logged over 1,200 hours and 21.5 million miles in space.

Dr Hoffman left the astronaut programme in 1997 to become NASA's European representative based in Paris. In 2001, he joined the MIT faculty, where he is Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics.


For more information/interviews, contact Professor Martin Barstow, Head of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester:

Tel +44 116 252 3574 (HoD Secretary)
Email -
Homepage -

Useful Links

Dr Hoffman's biography on the NASA website:

Wikipedia entry on Dr Hoffman:

Share this page:


No current announcements.

Mars Science Laboratory Blog

Find out the latest news about Mars Science Laboratory in Professor John Bridges' Mars Science Laboratory Blog.