Space man starts education mission to Wales

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Herschel telescope (BBC)
Image caption,
The Herschel telescope is looking deep into the universe

The first-ever ambassador for space in Wales has been appointed to encourage chidren to study science and maths.

Dr Paul Roche, from Cardiff and Glamorgan universities, will work to encourage astronomy in the classroom.

He said: "This role means, for the first time, we are able to get to all parts of Wales to inspire the next generation of space enthusiasts."

The role has been funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and UK Department for Education.

As "Space Ambassador", Dr Roche will help raise the profile of ESA and the UK space industry across Wales, and to help inspire a new generation of scientists to pursue careers in the space industry.

Dr Roche, who is the UK National Schools' Astronomer, is canvassing for schools in Wales to take part in the programme.

He said: "Space provides us with amazing opportunities to test our science and engineering skills to the limit, and Wales has played a significant role in the UK and ESA's exploration of the universe."

The Herschel and Planck satellites, launched in May 2009, are two of the flagship space missions for ESA. Launched into space last year, the satellites are being sent into orbit to gather fundamental new insights into the nature of the cosmos.

Both satellites involve substantial contributions from Cardiff University scientists. The Space Ambassador role will help highlight these missions by working with teachers and students, giving talks in schools, training teachers and providing information on careers in the space industry.

The UK space industry is estimated to be worth about £6.5 billion a year, and supports more than 68,000 jobs in many high tech areas.

The UK Space Agency was launched in March of this year, and Britain has a future astronaut in Major Tim Peake, who was selected by ESA in May 2009.

Dr Roche added: "Space can inspire and excite students of all ages, and my job will be to try and demonstrate how vital this sort of high-tech science is."

Dr Roche has spent the past 15 years running a variety of space-based education programmes across the UK and abroad.

He works jointly at the School of Physics and Astronomy in Cardiff and at the University of Glamorgan, where he is establishing Europe's first astronomy education group.

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