What is your job – can you describe a typical day in your work life?
My days vary – some days I’m in the office in Swindon, catching up with colleagues, having meetings and managing the education programme from my desk. I spend a lot of time on the phone as I have about 30 different projects to keep up-to-date with, and so there are many, many people I have to stay in touch with. I like working with people though so I enjoy this enormously. Other days I’m out travelling around the country, and occasionally around Europe. Now that Tim’s in orbit we have various events happening in schools and at science centres around the country, which are always good fun to be a part of.
How did you get into space science?
I’ve liked space for as long as I can remember – it has always fascinated me. When I was growing up, I loved learning about the early days of spaceflight and humans in space. Throughout school I enjoyed maths and science and so I decided to do a degree in Physics – but even then I didn’t really know if and how I would work in space science. Through my A-levels and university I knew there was a space industry in the UK, and that Europe was involved in the operations of the International Space Station. I realised that I wanted to be part of the industry. My master’s degree in Astronautics and Space Engineering led me to a job in satellite operations in the UK. After a few years I headed to Munich to work at the Columbus Control Centre (the European Mission Control for ISS). I worked out there for seven years before heading back to the UK to support Tim’s mission and the education programme.
What interests did you have as a child?
Space and science – I loved reading about them (still do) – but also music. I played instruments and sung in a choir.
If you weren’t an Education Programme Manager, what would you be?
I really have no idea. I love my job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else right now. I’ve been very lucky and keep waiting for someone to wake me up and tell me it’s all a dream!
How did you celebrate Tim Peake’s launch into space?
I was at the Science Museum with 3000 school children and it was fantastic! The atmosphere was buzzing and we all got to watch the details and highlights of the day as it unfolded. I spent a lot of the day giving interviews to the media, but then was able to enjoy celebrating with friends and colleagues at the end of the day.
What advice would you give your eight-year-old self about building a career in space science?
The space sector needs people with all sorts of skills, not just scientists and engineers but lawyers, medics, technicians, economists, communications etc etc – so there really is something for everyone. Whatever you want to do in life, never lose sight of your dreams. Work hard and strive to do the best you can in all you do. Find something you enjoy doing and then go for it.
Libby makes a cameo appearance in Chapter One of the Principia Mission Space Diary. Log in or sign up to the Principia Mission Space Diary website to download your own copy of the Space Diary along with teaching notes and resources.
The Principia Mission Space Diary is one of nine education projects funded by the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency, to support the education aims of Tim Peake’s mission to the International Space Station. Find out more about the Principia education projects here.