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Spreading the space message

25 June 2010

Dr Paul RocheDr Paul Roche

A leading University astronomer has been appointed Wales' first ambassador for space to help encourage more schoolchildren to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Dr Paul Roche from the School of Physics and Astronomy has been appointed Wales’ first "Space Ambassador" as part of a major UK programme funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the UK Department for Education.

As Space Ambassador, Dr Roche will help raise the profile of ESA and the UK space industry across Wales, build a network to enable schools to make better use of space and astronomy in the classroom, and help inspire a new generation of scientists to pursue careers in the space industry.

Dr Roche, School of Physics and Astronomy, 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.

"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 UK space industry is estimated to be worth around £6.5 billion a year, and supports over 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.

The Herschel and Planck satellites, launched in May 2009, are currently two of the flagship space missions for ESA. Both satellites involve substantial contributions from scientists at the University.

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.

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 overseas, and is currently the UK National Schools’ Astronomer.

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