Happy tenth anniversary to the National Space Centre!

Posted by vm64 at Jun 28, 2011 01:35 PM |
The UK’s largest visitor attraction and research facility dedicated to space is celebrating its tenth birthday this month, having opened on 30 June 2001.
Happy tenth anniversary to the National Space Centre!

National Space Centre birthday cake

Around a quarter of a million visitors pass through its doors each year to experience the interactive experiences and breathtaking discoveries, making it truly a visit that is out of this world.

The National Space Centre (NSC) was the result of a joint bid by the University of Leicester and Leicester City Council to the Millennium Commission as a Landmark Millennium Project for the East Midlands to mark the start of the third millennium. Featuring five different galleries, including 'Into space', 'Exploring the Universe' and 'Orbiting Earth', the Space Centre is a valuable educational resource offering science workshops for school children of all ages and is the home of the first Challenger Learning Centre to be built outside of North America. 

The University of Leicester’s Space Research Centre - which has links with NASA, ESA and the Russian Space Agency - is part of our Department of Physics and Astronomy and provides important information on current research. 

The concept of the NSC was first drawn up in 1994 in discussions between Alan Ponter, Alan Wells and Nigel Siesage. Already then, the proposal recognised that the University’s contribution was crucial for success:

The University of Leicester is known for its outstanding excellence in space and astronomy research and the study of the environment from space, and already has an effective outreach programme, marked particularly by the visits and public lectures by astronauts and leading astronomers

CGB2482b 400
L-R: Chas Bishop, Chief Executive of the NSC; Nigel Siesage, Director of Administration for the College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology; Emeritus Professor Alan Ponter, former Head of Engineering; and Emertius Professor Alan Wells of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

In the photograph above are the four key figures in the National Space Centre's birth, at the unveiling of a plaque in 2009 to commorate their contribution (click the image to see it in full). Left to right is: Chas Bishop, Chief Executive of the NSC; Nigel Siesage, Director of Administration for the College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology; Emeritus Professor Alan Ponter, former Head of Engineering; and Emertius Professor Alan Wells of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

As an outcome, the University linked the Space Research Centre Programme with the NSC, which marked the beginning of the fruitful relationship and collaborations. 

National Space Centre

Ever since the initial bid in 1997, the University staff members continue to be actively involved in the many aspects of the Centre to help the NSC deliver its high quality educational programmes and expertise. 

To highlight a few:

  • In 2003, the University and Industry team ran the Beagle 2 mission to Mars from the NSC, the first ever mission to be operated from a science visitor centre open to the public .
  • In October 2008, the then UK minister for Science and Innovation, Ian Pearson launched the UK’s first Space Academy to inspire young people to look to space for a career.
  • Our School of Education provides one-day Master classes to encourage enthusiasm for science through the context of ‘space’.
  • Our School of Management involved the Centre’s visitors into their study on their memories of the Moon landing, which were displayed in a recreated 1960s living room, complete with an original television which provided visitors with the opportunity to watch the event.
  • Dr Nigel Bannister from our Department of Physics and Astronomy runs regular training workshops for the NSC staff so they can provide a high quality experience.

Following its birthday celebration, the NSC will be holding a Doctor Who themed fundraising event over 2-3 July 2011, presented by Hyde Fundraises in aid of Children in Need. Highlights will include the opportunity to meet the characters and presentations on the background and creation of the series.

There is also a 'Leicester in Space' exhibit in development which current visitors can see the first signs of - watch this space (pun intended) for news on the full exhibition.