Last week I was invited to MC a talk by Helen Sharman as part of The Festival of the Moon in Wakefield. I'm always grateful to be offered the chance to host events (I find the opportunity exciting). This occasion was no different, and to meet Helen was an absolute pleasure.
Helen is mostly known for being the first British Astronaut (although she helped invent chocolate bar ice cream which is also huge, albeit in a different way). In 1991, at the age of 27 (along with two other crew members) she made her journey to the MIR Space Station on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
The event was part of the Festival of the Moon, a special celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing by NASA's Apollo eleven rocket in 1969. The centre-piece of the festival was a stunning piece of artwork by Luke Jerram titled "Museum Of The Moon" (the image on the cover of this article).
A short excerpt from Helen's biography:
Helen Sharman was working as a chemist when she heard an advert on her car radio. Responding to that advert changed her life. Over thirteen thousand people applied for that job and Helen didn't think she stood the smallest chance of being chosen. But Helen was precisely the type of person they were looking for - calm, practical, friendly, professional and a team player.
It was great to have some time in the green room with Helen before her talk. Discussing topics ranging from the all-important questions like how to go to the toilet in space, to learning some public speaking tips from a seasoned pro - it was enlightening to talk to her.
On the night she delivered the story of her journey into space and everything that followed. From working for Mars (the confectionary company, not the planet), to being selected for Astronaut training. The audience was in awe.
It was also great seeing her meet and greet people from the audience, making time for every single one of them. From adult fans to children dressed in full Astronaut costumes. It was inspirational hearing her chat to them, leaving the lasting message of "aim high" to those looking for some advice and direction.