Get students excited about the Principia mission

I’m an Astronaut is an online public engagement activity that gets members of the team behind Principia and human space missions talking to school students across the UK.

Members of the Astro Support Team put up a profile on the site, answer students’ questions and engage directly with them in live text-based chats. Students vote for their favourite. And the Astro Support Team nominates a class to take part in a final live chat with Tim Peake! The Astro team member with the highest proportion of votes after the four rounds will get £500 to communicate their work with the public.

Members of the Astro Support Team develop their communication skills, gain a fresh perspective on their work, and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and technicians taking humans farther into space. It’s a great way to engage hundreds of students with your work right from your computer!

How does it work?

I’m an Astronaut is split into four rounds, each lasting two weeks, culminating with the four winning classes taking part in a final live chat with Tim Peake, and the four winning Astro Support Team members.

In each round of the competition a different mix of five participants answer students’ questions. Members of the Astro Support Team interact online in two ways; through posted questions, and through text-based live chats. Students vote for their favourite member of the Astro Support Team to win the round and be in with a chance to win £500 to communicate their work with the public.

Participants can answer the questions whenever and wherever suits them. Live chats work in a similar way to instant messaging; they run for 30 minutes and are scheduled during normal school hours.

At the end of each round, we will have a winning participant, and a winning school; both will go on to take part in the final live chat with Tim Peake, and the four winners from the previous rounds.

When are the rounds?

The rounds of the competition will be scheduled around key events in the Principia Mission.

Round 1 – Training Zone

5th–16th October 2015

Round 2 – Launch Zone

7th–18th December 2015

(Principia Mission Launch is currently set for 15th December)

Round 3 – Orbit Zone

British Science Week — 7th–18th March 2016

Round 4 – Touchdown Zone

Principia Mission End — 13th–24th June 2016

Final Live Chat

During Tim Peake’s debrief (Date TBC)

Why take part?

Many of us dreamed — and still do — of becoming an astronaut. The odds of living this dream are small, but there are so many ways to get involved in human space flight. This online engagement activity showcases those opportunities. Students will be able to ask anything about what it takes to get into space. We are looking for scientists, engineers, technicians, and researchers to take part and see what questions and concerns young people have, giving students the opportunity to explore the topics raised in much greater depth.

For those taking part, it’s a fun way to talk about your work and do your bit to inspire the next generation to join the teams that take humans further into space. It’s also a great way to practice communication skills. The format helps you hone your messages and work out the best ways to explain your work to a wide audience, but in a flexible format designed to work around your availability.


If you take part you’ll be live on the site for two weeks, in one round of the competition. We expect the time commitment will be around one or two hours a day. As it’s online you can answer questions whenever and wherever you happen to be.

During the two weeks, students will be voting for one member of the Astro Support Team to win, one of which will go into the final live chat with Tim Peake.

Next steps

If you’d like to be part of the team, get in touch, with a couple of sentences summarising your work and how it relates to the Principia Mission.

Every member of the Astro Support Team will have an online profile (with pictures and a short bio) like this one from October’s Training Zone.