the Moon, Mars and beyond with NASA

February 2024: Students from Wykham Park Academy, accompanied by Mr Sterland, had a wonderful trip and experienced what it is like to work at the frontier of science. They met the engineers, scientists and astronauts who will take humanity to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

By reflecting on past successes and failures and looking to future technologies, the study visit will hopefully inspire the participants to reach for the stars and be part of this new mission of exploration.

Wykham NASA trip
Students on the trip recorded their experience through diaries and images so that parents, friends and all associated with our academies could share their American adventure.

Student reflections

Today began with an early start at Kennedy Space Centre’s visitor complex, participating in the national anthem ritual at opening. We visited many of the exhibits from missions past and present, such as the Atlantis Space Shuttle building, which housed the shuttle in addition to memorials to the Challenger and Columbia disasters, the Gateway, which was primarily focussed on current commercial ventures, and the Apollo Saturn V centre via a bus tour, on which we saw an alligator. Furthermore, we rode the Red Planet experience, which takes you on a virtual tour around Mars, and Space Shuttle launch simulator.

We finished the day with a dinner with former NASA education outreach worker Chrissy Sokol along with her NASA engineer husband Andy, discussing their career paths and accomplishments, as well as general conversations about life in each others’ countries.

PACE satellite launch


PACE satellite launch

We woke up early this morning and walked down to the beach after a two night wait to watch the launch of NASA’s PACE satellite, launching from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The launch began with the sky being illuminated as if the sun was rising, Booster B1081 propelled the payload upwards towards orbit, on its 4th successful launch. What was unexpected was the lack of sound – the rocket couldn’t be heard from the beach until 30 seconds into the flight.

The Falcon 9 rocket booster is unique in that it then descends back to Earth and lands after it has separated from the second stage, which we were fortunate enough to see from the beach. This made for quite a sight, with the rocket boosters operating to bring it closer to the designated landing pad, before it gradually decelerated towards the Earth. Finally, there was a bright light across the sky as it touched down, with a sonic boom occurring a few seconds later.

Wykham NASA trip

Our final full day in Florida began with an early start at the Kennedy Space Centre, where instead of going into the visitor centre, we got onto a classic NASA bus and went on a restricted access areas tour of the centre.

The first stop was the Launch Control Centre, or LCC, where Dan,( NASA Test Director), gave us a tour and a brief history of the building, in which every Kennedy Centre launch had been fired from, including Apollo 11.

After this, we visited the Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB for short. This is the largest single storey building in the world and was built for the Saturn V rocket of the Apollo program, where they assembled the rocket in preparation for launch. This building has been retrofitted over its lifespan to accommodate both STS and Artemis.

We then stopped for lunch at the Apollo/Saturn V centre, also visiting the Lunar Theatre show, before heading off to the final stop of the day, the Vegetable Production Lab. Here Aubrie and Luke spoke about their experiments on growing vegetables. Lastly how their work will impact how plants are grown in space and here on Earth.

We finished the day off with a meal with Chrissy (NASA outreach), Teresa (Chief NASA Engineer) as well as Susie, (NASA mission integration engineer), who is originally from the UK but now has American citizenship. A great final day here at NASA.

Aspirations Academies NASA trip podcast

To learn more about previous Aspirations Academies NASA trips or see the right hand menu.

NASA 2024 gallery

Here is a visual diary of some of the fantastic experiences we enjoyed during our NASA 2024 trip.

Where next


ADMISSIONS Information We welcome visits and tours of the academy at any time. If you are interested in having a look around the academy site…

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