By Dr Andy Campbell
It was the era when kids played everywhere. Streets, parks, gardens, woods & rivers – the world was a playground and who didn’t want to be an astronaut?! It was April 1981, I was 8 & 3/4s (that was important back then) and I was out playing with Davey. I had to cut short our play to run home for something special – The launch of the very FIRST space shuttle – Columbia. It was being broadcast live on the BBC. What a space ship it was! A beautiful delta winged craft somehow stuck to a huge triple structure rocket. That white central fuel tank - perfection. We had never seen anything like it before. The launch was mesmerising, the ejection of the solid rocket boosters, the detaching of the Shuttle from the fuel tank. Whilst I missed the Apollo generation, from that moment I became the ‘space shuttle generation’, and I was hooked & inspired!
My spacey career journey only started in 2014. I attended a talk in Glasgow by Astronaut Trainer Michelle Lucas. The space spark was reignited then! I started getting into space-based STEM education and consulted with a company called International Space School Educational Trust (ISSET) to bring a programme called ‘Mission Discovery’ to Scotland. MD works with NASA Astronauts and senior staff to inspire the next generation of young people into STEM careers and tackles the gender and race inequalities along the way. Young people pitch ideas for experiments, one team wins and their experiment is built and flown to the International Space Station to be carried out by an astronaut! Impact is huge and around 10 experiments including those from the University of the West of Scotland have been flown to space through this programme.
I now count many space leaders including senior NASA staff and Astronauts in my professional network, some are friends. Along the way my son Lewis (who will introduce himself) has followed a career into the space sector! I mentor him in is spacey side hustle!
I’ve been so fortunate and have many spacey highlights from watching in person the launch of SpaceX CRS-6 which took a swatch of the Paisley Pattern up to the ISS that I organised, to having a personal tour of JSC with Astronaut Steve Bowen who is leading CREW-6 to the ISS later this month.
However my highlight has to be a call I organised with Last man on the Moon, Gene Cernan shortly before he passed away. Over Skype, he spoke to a community audience in Paisley after we watched the film about him. He was wonderful and moved many of us to tears.
Scotland has such a bright future for the space sector ahead of it. I was lucky to be part of the Scottish video games industry growing rapidly in the mid ‘90s. I see the Scottish Space Sector at the same stage – ready to launch to great things. One thing I know that is really important is having a very strong industry community network. I see the SSN, this group, as one of the foundations that can support and lead to our success!
Dr Andy Campbell, Founder, Scottish Space Network