Give a child a jetpack

Challenge Accepted

Charles Bolden and I shake on the deal.

In June 2015, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden issued me with a challenge to get more young people involved in space. I duly accepted, but I need your help.

The idea behind “Give a child a jetpack” is to encourage people to do things that will boost interest in space with young people, and welcome them into the space family from an early age. There are all sorts of ways that you can do this – from sharing space goodies  to talking in schools, ensuring your company looks at where it advertises jobs/events to making sure careers advisers know that there is healthy jobs market in the industry, plus outreach, outreach, outreach!

Here are some resources that might help you “give a child a jetpack”, whatever your background – and they’re all worth exploring, whatever your age.

Get involved

Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS)
A global student organisation devoted to space. There are branches all around the world, including the very active UKSEDS chapter.

Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC)
The Space Generation Advisory Council is a global non-governmental, non-profit organisation and network which aims to represent university students and young space professionals to the United Nations, space agencies, industry, and academia. Free to join, amazing network of fellow space enthusiasts from all around the world.

British Interplanetary Society
The oldest space society in the world, holds regular meetings and events, publishes a journal and monthly Spaceflight magazine. Their motto is “From imagination to reality”. Quite apt!

The Royal Aeronautical Society
The world’s only learned society dedicated to the entire aerospace community. Regular events and conferences at their London HQ.

The Royal Astronomical Society
Founded in 1820, the Royal Astronomical Society encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science.

Astronomers Without Borders
We all share the same sky, and Astronomers Without Borders brings the world together to share our passion of astronomy and the wonders of the Universe.

Engineers Without Borders
International organisation whose mission is to facilitate collaboration, exchange of information, and assistance among its member groups all around the world.

Fragile Oasis
Guided by the unique orbital perspective of men and women who live and work in Space, our vision is for Fragile Oasis to be a vehicle that helps people and organizations collaborate and develop synergy toward overcoming the challenges facing humanity on Earth.


Space-based unconferences all around the world – find out more details about SpaceUp:UK and how it all works on our website!

Space Lectures
Want to hear about the Apollo Moon missions from the astronauts who flew them? Then this is for you! Lectures and dinners take place approximately every six months in Pontefract.

British Interplanetary Society Events

Royal Aeronautical Society Events

UK Space Conference
Held every two years, the UK Space Conference is the unmissable gathering for the entire UK space community; bringing together the space industry, users of space-based services, entrepreneurs, academia and government. The 2015 conference is in Liverpool in July.

Challenges and Competitions

International Space Apps Challenge
The International Space Apps Challenge is an international mass collaboration focused on space exploration that takes place over 48-hours in cities around the world. The event embraces collaborative problem solving with a goal of producing relevant open-source solutions to address global needs applicable to both life on Earth and life in space.

AstroPi – Your code in space
A team of leading UK Space companies have joined forces with British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake to offer students the chance to devise and code their own app or experiment to run on a Raspberry Pi which will be taken to the International Space Station as part of Tim’s mission.

Mission X – Train Like an Astronaut
Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut is an international educational challenge focusing on fitness and nutrition as we encourage students to “train like an astronaut.”

Teaching Resources

NASA Education
NASA has a whole host of educational resources dotted around it’s website, with a handy search page if you’re looking for something in particular.

ESA Education
A rich selection of multimedia resources, and a dedicated “Teachers’ Corner“. They also help run various teacher training workshops.

UKSA Education
Blog detailing the UK Space Agency’s education activities and news about how to get involved with astronaut Tim Peake’s forthcoming mission.

Social Media

NASA is all over social media, with accounts for different NASA centres, missions, staff and departments there’s something for everyone. Click the link above for a very handy guide to all their accounts.

Lots of social media in lots of languages.

The UK Space Agency, Japanese Space Agency and many others are also active on Twitter. You can find a astronauts and cosmonauts on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and more. Companies, scientists, agencies and enthusiasts share news, debate and come together to celebrate big news (like Philae waking up). Social media is a great tool for learning and connecting with new people. If you’re on Twitter, you might also enjoy the SpaceTweep Society.


There are all sorts of apps available for mobiles and tablets to help you keep up to date with missions, use augmented reality to identify constellations, or even remind you when to look up to see the International Space Station overhead. Here are a few from NASA and ESA(for iOS and Android) to whet your appetite.


Science Museum
The Science Museum was founded in 1857 and is world renowned for its historic collections, awe-inspiring galleries and inspirational exhibitions. September 18th 2015 sees them open a special temporary exhibition on Cosmonauts.

The National Space Centre
Located in Leicester, The National Space Centre is a charity organisation set-up with the mission of communicating space and interests in science.

Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)
MOSI aims to be internationally recognised for creative exploration of how science, innovation and industry created and sustain modern society.


Apollo 13
Dramatic telling of the ill-fated  Moon mission that almost ended in disaster.

Last Man on the Moon
Documentary starring Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon. Touching and fascinating – read my review.

The Right Stuff
This adaptation of the non-fiction novel by Tom Wolfe chronicles the first 15 years of America’s space program.

One of my favourite films of all time. Gattaca looks at a future of humanity where people are genetically engineered to be “superior” and suited to certain careers. The story follows an “in-valid”, born through natural methods, and his dream of getting to space – a career track reserved for only the fittest and smartest. So many great talking points plus an excellent soundtrack.

Big-budget, action-packed blockbuster space film. Lacking in character development or strong storyline (and also contains some jarring scientific inaccuracies), but you can’t fault the special effects.

Other things

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. There are books, like Chris Hadfield’s ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth’ and Ron Garan’s ‘Orbital Perspective’ among others that are worth reading. There are organisations like The WISE Campaign, STEMnet and ScienceGrrl that you might like to connect with. There are inspirational people and missions that you should look into.

As I said when I introduced Charlie Bolden’s Challenge, I need your help to build up this list of resources and ideas. If you’d like me to include something on this list then fill in this simple form and I’ll do my best to update this regularly.

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