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.
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- human spaceflight
- young people