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Astronaut finds signs of intelligent life in Fife

Andrew Abercromby with pupils of Buckhaven High School

Dundee-born NASA Engineer, Andrew Abercromby, returned to Buckhaven High School this week to meet pupils at his former school. Andrew made the visit together with NASA Astronaut Douglas Wheelock.

The visit was part of a series of events organised by the University of St Andrews as part of their summer Space School programme; which aims to build strong links with the local community, as well as offering young people the opportunity to learn about the science of the stars from leading scientists, university students, and professional astronauts.

This was a special journey for Abercromby who grew up in Fife where he attended Balmerino Primary School in Gauldry, Lundin Mill Primary School in Lundin Links, and Buckhaven High School. His main passions growing up were sports and computer games and he was an East Fife season ticket holder all through high school. His interest in space exploration did not begin until he attended a Space School at NASA’s Johnson Space Center at age 17. Having never even been on an airplane before, just the chance to fly anywhere was exciting, but after a life-changing two weeks at NASA Andrew knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

He went on to study engineering before learning to fly at RAF Leuchars, later gaining a doctorate from the University of Houston, and with a generous dose of good fortune Andrew now considers himself to have one of the best jobs going. His career has seen him design and test spacesuits and spacecraft; pilot a single-person submersible; perform solo dives beneath 4 meters of ice in a frozen lake in the mountains of Antarctica; and working in environments are varied as reduced-gravity research aircraft, the Arizona desert, and lakes in the Canadian Rockies.

Andrew Abercromby said:

“I’m excited to be coming back to Fife and helping with the Space School. My own Space School experience when I was a pupil at Buckhaven High was a major event in my life and had a huge effect on my career ambitions, so I understand the ability of these events to have a positive impact on school children. As well as talking about some of my work with NASA I hope that I can help encourage these school children to set themselves ambitious career goals, whether in the space industry or in whatever other fields their interests eventually lead them.”

The two spoke with pupils and answered questions, ahead of a Space School graduation ceremony at the University of St Andrews on Thursday (June 12, 2014). The graduation ceremony will bring together over 60 pupils from over 30 schools in Fife to recognise their completion of the Space School programme. Abercromby and Wheelock will both address the young space cadets and congratulate them on their achievements.

Now in its seventh year Space School has this year attracted its highest ever number of space cadets. The week long programme includes workshops on how to build robots and rockets, and is the culmination of a five month scheme of activities that have seen youngsters exploring the solar system and space travel.

Vicky Torrance, Senior Education Liaison Officer at the University of St Andrews, said:

“Space School is such an enjoyable event here in St Andrews and we are honoured to have our NASA guests spend the week with us. They will be such an inspiration to our young people and we are very much looking forward to visiting Andrew’s former primary and secondary school in Fife.”

Space School is part of the University’s wider outreach programme, which over the course of the week will see over 500 pupils from across Fife attending a variety of events and summer schools in St Andrews.

Notes to News Editors

Media are invited to the Space School graduation ceremony on Wednesday 11 June 2014 at 2pm in the Buchanan Lecture Theatre, Union Street, St Andrews.

Over 60 pupils from over 30 schools in Fife will be attending.

Andrew Abercromby and Douglas Wheelock will be available for interview.

Media interested in attending the event should notify the Press Office on 01334 462 167 or email Emma.Shea@st-andrews.ac.uk

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