Libby Jackson Lecture: 'Destination Space'

On Tuesday 12th March, we were delighted to welcome Libby Jackson as our Keynote speaker for British Science Week 2019. She was also our final guest for this academic year’s Lecture Programme, and what a wonderful way to bring it to a close. Libby came to our attention during the lead-up to Tim Peake's trip to the International Space Station - she was in charge of the education programme for his flight but it was not until I picked up a copy of her book A Galaxy of Her Own did I realise the extraordinary career that she has had.

The theme for British Science Week this year was ‘Journey's’ so Libby took her journey and career as the focus of her lecture. She described how as a pupil she had loved Physics and Maths and had always been inspired by Space. Sitting with her friends discussing work experience she had joked that she was going to send an email to NASA to ask for a shadowing placement, and then did exactly that. Much to her surprise NASA wrote back and weeks later she was sitting in Mission Control in Houston, and the experience only left her wanting more.

After a degree in Physics and a Masters in Space Engineering, she worked her way up, often as the only female, to working in Mission Control for the European Space Agency in Munich. She was an instructor, a flight controller and finally a Columbus flight director on missions to the International Space Station. She shared many photographs of her career but the most poignant was the one where she was sitting in the same seat in Mission Control, now as flight director, as she had sat in on her work placement. Now the programme manager for Human Space Flight and Microgravity, she had a wealth of experience to share with the girls and delivered a very positive message about trying your hardest and giving things a go.

The girls really enjoyed the lecture and there were some fascinating questions at the end about space debris and the collaborative, international nature of space research. I had originally picked up the book because I was interested in the stories she was telling about women in Space but it was evident after the lecture that Libby's story, her determination to grab every opportunity and make her dreams come true, was just as interesting.

Mrs Alexandra Haydon, Head of Science and Senior Teacher