Northern Ireland is set for a day of wonder this December as W5 and the Armagh Planetarium invite schools and families from all over the country to celebrate the launch of the Principia space mission.

The mission, which blasts off from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11.03am (GMT) on December 15, will see Tim Peake becoming the European Space Agency’s first British astronaut. The three-man crew to the ISS includes NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko.

Coinciding with the launch, W5 will see an all-day event of curated space activities and experiments. As well as watching a live feed of the launch and the docking, attendees can participate in rocket building, astronaut training, educational workshops and much more.

Adding to the excitement will be the presence of acclaimed European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy, veteran of three NASA Space Shuttle Missions who has spent over 600 hours in space.

Speaking about the event, spokesperson for the European Space Agency Mike McKay said: “We are extremely excited to be part of this great event in Belfast. We hope the mission will encourage potential young astronauts to really push the boundaries of learning and reach for the stars.”

The event is funded by the UK Space Agency which will be holding celebratory launch events across the UK.

Also celebrating the much-anticipated launch will be the Armagh Planetarium which will open late to allow attendees to observe the Soyuz capsule docking at the International Space Station via telescope.

These local events are a great build up towards the forthcoming Northern Ireland Science Festival which this year is themed around space technology and exploration. The Science Festival takes place throughout Northern Ireland on February 18 – 28 2016.

Talking about the Northern Ireland Science Festival, director Chris McCreery said: “We are delighted to host our very special space theme and continue raising awareness around space exploration, especially following such a momentous occasion for the UK space industry.”

Judith Harvey, General Manager of W5, said: “This exciting launch event forms part of Destination Space – a three-year education and outreach programme that W5 has secured as one the nation’s top science and discovery centres. We are delighted that W5 has been chosen to implement such an inspiring and exciting programme.”

Families and schools have been invited to join W5 through a calendar of family shows and live events that have been running from October 2015 including this special event for Tim Peake’s launch. W5 will also launch special curriculum-linked activities for school children aged 5-14 from January 2016 whilst Tim is in space.
Tim Peake/Science Museum

To find out more about events on December 15, log on to https://principia.org.uk/events/northen-ireland-launch-event/ or visit www.w5online.co.uk.

To find out more about the NI Science Festival log on to http://www.nisciencefestival.com/

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