A SPACEMAN came travelling on his ship from afar – and landed at Our Lady of Mount Carmel First School in Redditch last Friday.
Steve Swanson flew two missions on the Space Shuttle and one to the International Space Station, clocking 4,700 hours in space and completing two space walks.
But on March 15 he touched down in Redditch as part of his work as an ambassador for the Stephen Hawking Foundation.
Waiting to meet him in the hall were the children from Mount Carmel and four other local schools.
Mount Carmel is an Ogden Trust school, dedicated to giving youngsters a real taste of the science of physics, and the occasion was British Science Week.
All week, under the lead of science teacher Lorraine Burrows, pupils had been working on space-themed projects, from launching bottle rockets, examining the universe and attending a talk on the cosmos from a top University of Birmingham lecturer.
Steve, due at 1.30pm, was running late as he made his way to Redditch from visiting schools in Leamington and Chipping Camden.
Then, just before 1.45pm, some pupils caught a glimpse of a man in a blue jumpsuit signing in at reception.
What had been a quiet murmur rose to a crescendo of anticipation as the 58-year-old retired astronaut stepped into the hall.
“I’m here to hopefully inspire these young people to great things,” he said.
“Space is what’s happening right now and if my visit can help these children reach higher then it has all been worthwhile.”
After his talk he opened the floor to questions and was duly grilled by the pupils.
Questions ranged from how do you have a pee in a spacesuit, to how does your body, and your emotions, feel in space.
He was also asked about muscle and bone density by the young scientists and how space affects them.
“We even had one boy in Year 1 who asked him about Black Holes and where they were in space and if it was possible to escape them,” said Lorraine.
He was then happy to pose for photographs with the children making sure they took away with them a picture to remember a momentous day.
“It was lovely for the children,” said Lorraine.
“He was very patient with them and funny too. He definitely got them hooked.”