Astro Don Thomas

2015 Visit

Former NASA Astronaut Donald Thomas Lecture Events

Very excited and privileged to have hosted former NASA Astronaut Don Thomas for the day on Monday June 8th 2015.

Don Thomas is an astronaut, scientist, professional speaker, educator, and author of Orbit of Discovery about his STS-70 mission aboard space shuttle Discovery. A veteran of four flights, Don has spent 44 days in space. Don is helping to inform and excite the public about our future in space and preparing our next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers for their missions in the future.

The day began for us leaving home in Walsall at 5.00 AM to travel up to Manchester to pick up Don for a 7.00 AM start. Thank goodness Don is an early riser too.

Quick trip down the M6 (thankfully no early morning holdups) and into Aldridge school (a science college). Meet and greet with the staff and senior students, thank you to all and Rebekah Bridgman (Head of science) for the warm welcome.

Students had researched Don and his shuttle flights and put together some display boards that were positioned on the stage with the posters that the Year 7 students had designed.

After a brief introduction Don launched into his lecture ‘Living and Working in Space’ to more than 200 staff and students and captivated them with his presentation with many great images and a first-hand narrative.

A Q&A session followed with many excellent questions. This was Don’s first U.K. school lecture

Don presented Rebekah with a framed photo/patch montage. Three winners of the poster completion were then presented with their prizes, a signed Orbit of Discovery book and vouchers.

A professional photographer had been drafted in take some brilliant shots of Don and the prize winners.

  • Display boards for Don Thomas Astronaut visit.

  • Display boards for Don Thomas Astronaut visit.

  • Don Thomas animated presentation.

  • Don Thomas presents Head of Science Rebekah Bridgman with a photo/mission patch montage.

  • Don Thomas with prize winning students and Head of Science Rebekah Bridgman.

  • Before the lecture

  • As staff and students arrive

Off for a quick pit stop in Aldridge town centre for coffee at the local Costa and meeting with some of the family.

  • Don Thomas with daughter Nikki and grandson Logan.

  • Don Thomas with the staff at the Aldridge Costa Coffee.

On then to the town of Knighton just across the border in Wales. Destination the Knighton Church in Wales Primary school. We arrived a little later than planned. The children were very excited to meet an astronaut. On Don’s arrival in the school hall he was greeted with a song that the children had rehearsed well. Younger children in the audience had dressed up as space aliens, astronauts and a half dozen Buzz Lightyear’s. What do you call a group of Lightyear’s all in one place?

Don later remarked that it was slightly surreal looking out onto a multitude of green faces some with antennae staring back at him, a short Q&A session followed.

  • Don Thomas during the Q&A session

  • Don Thomas making a presentation to the Head teacher Mary Strong.

The ultimate signature on your cast.

Don then presented an abbreviated ‘Living and Working’ in Space presentation for the older children. Among some of earth views was a familiar shot of the Thames snaking through London. When Don asked if anyone knew where this was an image of he was somewhat surprised when just about every child chorused “its Eastenders”.

The older children had prepared a number of questions for him and with only a few days’ notice had put a lot of thought into them. Don finished the session with a futuristic Mars exploration image and went on to explain that astronauts in the shot could be any one of them (but not him, their parents or their teachers……… as they were already too old) this was greeted with loud laughter. The school visit was finished off with a framed photo/patch presentation to Mary Strong, head teacher of the school. Don was presented with a Welsh flag. Don has some Welsh ancestry and with the surname Thomas was warmly accepted as a native.

Another coffee/cake stop this time at the Tower House Gallery.

Off again, for a short trip up the hill to the Spaceguard Centre. The National Near Earth Objects Information Centre. The centre Director Jay Tate welcomed Don and gave him a mini tour of the facility (well worth a visit if you are in the area). They cater for larger groups too such as school visits. Check ahead for opening times and availability.

  • Former Astronaut Don Thomas with the Spaceguard centre Director Jay Tate.

Then we headed back to Manchester for dinner and a little relaxation, finally. A round trip of 400 miles but when you have circled the Earth nearly 700 times as Don has done, what’s a few hundred miles more.

Don had done all of the hard work. His message  throughout the day was a very positive one, ‘reach for the stars’,’ follow your dreams’, ‘work hard at school’ and if at first you don’t succeed, address the reason why and try again.

Don is a great public speaker full of enthusiasm and very inspiring, we witnessed him in action today and he can instantly cater for the target audience.

For more information on Don Thomas please visit his website.

For more information on our next event in September visit www.astronautevent.co.uk

 

2016 Visit

Day 1.

This latest series of events began down in London with a tour of the Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age exhibition.

It finishes on the 13th March only days now before it ends. Check out this and other great events at the Science Museum London.

Later in the evening Dr. Don Thomas (call me Don) gave his polished ‘The Day a Woodpecker Attacked the Space Shuttle’ presentation to the assembled members of the British Interplanetary Society.

This was followed by a Q&A session, book and autograph signing.

Don was presented with a certificate and made a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society. Arise Dr. Don Thomas FBIS.

More to follow soon…….

  • Don Thomas at the British Interplanetary Society in London

  • Don Thomas was awarded a Fellowship of the British Interplanetary Society

Day 2.

The day began at Brassington Primary School, Brassington, Matlock, Derbyshire with a presentation on living and working in space to an exited group of young children and staff members. Don also entertained a group of pre-schoolers and also fielded a Q &A session for parents.

Off then to another Derbyshire school the Longford Church of England  Primary School in Longford, Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

Don received another warm welcome from the children and the staff and entertained and enthralled them with his stories of space travel and life on orbit.

After a brief stop we were headed back to Walsall.

Later that evening Don presented ‘The Day a Woodpecker Attacked the Space Shuttle’ talk to members of the Walsall Astronomical Society based at the Rushall Olympic Football Club. It was standing room only. The lecture was followed by a Q&A session, book and autograph signing.

More to follow soon……

  • Don Thomas and the pesky woodpecker story.

  • Don Thomas presenting a framed photo to Mrs E.V. Moorsom Headteacher of the Brassington Primary School.

  • Photo courtesy of the AshbourneNewsTelegraph. Brassington Primary School pupils captivated by astronaut.

  • Photo courtesy AshbourneNewsTelegraph.Astronaut Dr Don Thomas, right, with pupil Alex Martin.

  • Walsall Astronomical Society Lecture

Day3.

The big event of the week was a full day of activities at the National Space Centre in Leicester. Don was a veritable whirlwind of energy.

Don the consummate professional was on hand to engage with the public, young and old alike.

He entertained and educated and was popular with everyone he met. The day of activities included Breakfast with an Astronaut; professional photo shoot; autograph and book signing; Lunch with an Astronaut and then a Q&A session to a more than 190 strong audience, standing room only in the Sir Patrick Moore planetarium.

A number of guests either had birthdays immediately before the event; some were celebrating birthdays at the event or the following day. A cake featuring space mission patches was presented at the lunch.

Wow what an event! Feedback from the event has been 100% positive.

 

 

2017 Visit

Kirstie Deakin, NASA Astronaut Don Thomas and Emma Jones making full use of the anti-gravity chamber at the National Space Centre, Leicester U.K. (they don’t really have an anti-gravity chamber…..just the magic of green screen).

Day 1. 22nd March 2017

Don Thomas once again wowed the audiences at all of the events on this 2017 visit. The school’s events again proved particularly popular.

Aldridge, Walsall evening lecture/Q&A event at the Calderfields Golf and Country Club.

  • Don’s No.1 U.K. fan.

  • Don delivering his excellent multimedia talk for the evening.

  • Forming an orderly queue for autographs!

Day 2. 23rd March 2017

AM visit Nunnery Wood Primary School, Worcester, and PM visit King Charles I School Kidderminster.

The children at Nunnery Wood School had been very busy with their arts and crafts. Planetary rovers, spaceships from the past, present and future, astronauts and aliens were the order of the day, Astronaut Don Thomas had to judge the winning entries.

Staff and children excelled themselves with their costumes, never have so many astronauts and aliens been present in one school hall before………probably.

Out of this world ‘Arts and Crafts’

Day 3. 24th March 2017

Aldridge Academy School, Aldridge, Walsall. See the newspapers section below for photos from this school visit. Don lectured to a large audience including pupils from nearby schools. This was Don’s second visit to the Aldridge Academy School.

 

Day 4. 25th March 2017

National Space Centre, Leicester full day of events including, breakfast with an astronaut, photos, autograph and book signings, theatre lecture culminating in a Gala dinner.

What the papers had to say!

As well as newspaper publicity Don featured live on BBC radio Leicester, carried out interviews for University and school projects.

Courtesy Walsall Chronicle March 16, 2017.

Courtesy Walsall Advertiser March 30 2017. Don Thomas at the Aldridge Academy.

Don Thomas Aldridge School Visit Courtesy Express & Star Newspaper. Thursday March 30th.

An astronaut has told Worcester schoolchildren that one of them could be the first to visit Mars.

Retired NASA astronaut Don Thomas told youngsters that someone from their generation would go to the red planet during an inspirational visit to Nunnery Wood Primary School.

Dr Thomas spent 44 days in space during four trips he undertook in the 1990s, during which he orbited the Earth 692 times.

He spoke to students from the school, along with some from Red Hill Primary School and Stanley Road Primary School.

 

Pupils dressed as astronauts and aliens to hear Dr Thomas tell them about how he lived, worked and played catch in space.

He told them how thrilling it was to be launched into space, describing it as “like going on a great, scary rollercoaster.”

He was at the school as part of a series of trips organised by Inspire Space and told pupils he had been inspired by another astronaut himself at the age of six.

Speaking to the Worcester News, Dr Thomas said: “From six years old I was focused on it.

 

“Then, we would land on the moon when I was in high school.

“That was a very positive reinforcement and inspirational moment for me.”

Dr Thomas said: “The highlight for every astronaut is looking at the Earth, just to see our planet.

“It changes the perception of the planet.

“You appreciate our planet is really fragile. We have to take better care of this planet.

“All these images I’ve seen in books and I’m looking out the window and it’s really amazing.”

He said he now visited dozens of schools a year and found children were as excited as ever about space.

He said: “We have some great missions in the future. This generation will be the ones landing on Mars, and going back to the moon.

“Space is something that young people are interested in.

“It’s a magical world. They love the idea of exploring new places and that’s what we are doing in space, exploring new places.

“The more people that can go up there to see our Earth the better off our planet will be.

 

“You would only have to look out of the window for 30 seconds and it would change you.”

After the talk, some of the youngsters received prizes for projects they had completed based around space.

The talk took place on Thursday, March 23.

Astronaut Fever hits Walsall. Article courtesy of the Chronicle (Walsall).

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