Close encounters between young people and human spaceflight

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Over the past decade, public policy initiatives have promoted public engagement with science, incentivized in part by the increased role of engagement in securing research funding. Many routes to engagement rely on schools and young people. Since the Apollo missions, human spaceflight has been advocated as a means of promoting such engagement. This paper presents a case study of how young people were engaged with human spaceflight during the Principia mission. Principia launched Britain’s first government-funded astronaut to the International Space Station and had education and inspiring young people as a core objective. Drawing on actor-network-theory we trace the ways in which young people encountered human spaceflight through a qualitative empirical case study involving 113 children and 66 key informants including teachers, scientists, outreach providers and others involved in human spaceflight. Our findings have implications for policymakers and practitioners. We suggest a need for greater clarity over the role of live science in mediating science communication messages. If they are to succeed, science policy and outreach goals need to be aligned with existing school priorities. This can be achieved by paying attention to school planning cycles and making use of the affordances of social media for direct communication to teachers and young people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-203
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education Part B
Issue number3
Early online date23 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2020

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© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • human spaceflight
  • attitudes
  • young people
  • policy

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