Astronaut wanted, no experience necessary - Leeds International Festival

Festival 19


Saturday 05 May
13:00 - 14:30

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Astronaut wanted, no experience necessary with Helen Sharman OBE

Header image credit:
Creative Commons.

Looking at space travel past, present and future: Britain’s first astronaut, Helen Sharman CMG OBE and the CEO and Co-Founder of Mars One, Bas Lansdorp, compered by BBC presenter Dallas Campbell.

Space has long been designated ‘the final frontier’. But are we making leaps and bounds in our understanding of the vast universe beyond our own small solar system? We’ll talk to Helen Sharman CMG OBE, the first Briton in space, as well as Dallas Campbell (BBC presenter and author of “Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet) and Bas Landorp, the CEO and Co-Founder of the Mars One mission, about the future of space travel.

"No experience necessary"

On May 18th 1991, a food chemist from Sheffield became the first Briton to go to space, and the first woman to visit the Russian space station Mir.

This unlikely career progression was instigated by a radio advertisement, which said simply “astronaut wanted. No experience necessary.” From more than 13,000 applicants, Helen was selected, and she began rigorous training in Star City, Russia, to become part of Project Juno. Sharman’s mission lasted eight days.

Sharman will describe her journey to the audience, from the endless preparation to the realities of life in space, to adjusting back to life with her feet on planet Earth.

Credit: Helen Sharman, first British astronaut.
Helen Sharman, first British astronaut.

A one-way ticket to Mars

Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp’s passion for ambitious projects finally led him to the big one – manning an interstellar mission to settle the first human colony on Mars in 2032.

The first (unmanned) mission intends to head craft to Mars in 2022, with the one-way trip for its participants proceeding a decade afterward.

Lansdorp will discuss the why and how of Mars exploration and permanent settlement. There is no return trip; he’ll discuss the complexities of finding a crew capable of leaving their friends, family – and indeed planet – behind them.

Credit: Mars One
Mars One

Dallas Campbell will compere the event, a TV presenter recognisable from Stargazing Live, where he presented alongside Dara O’Briain and Professor Brian Cox for the live launch of Tim Peake’s voyage to the International Space Station, as well as BBC1’s Bang Goes The Theory, amongst other programmes.


Saturday 5 May

13:00 - 14:30
£12 + BF
AQL, Salem Church

Additional Information:

Under 16s free.


Helen Sharman CMG OBE is British chemist and astronaut, and the first British citizen to go into space. After her degree in chemistry from the University of Sheffield, Helen worked first in electronics and then as a research technologist for Mars Confectionery.

Helen responded to a radio advertisement for astronauts and was selected from more than 13,000 applicants to be part of Project Juno, a commercial British space mission. In November 1989, she began 18 months of rigorous training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre at Star City, Russia. Helen finally launched into space on May 18, 1991, as a research cosmonaut on board Soyuz TM-12 with two Soviets, commander Anatoli Artsebarsky and flight engineer Sergei Krikalyov. Soyuz TM-12 docked with the space station Mir on May 20. The mission lasted nearly eight days, during which time Sharman conducted a variety of experiments including medical tests.

She was awarded the CMG in the 2018 New Year Honours for services to Science and Technology Educational Outreach.

credit: National Waterfront Museum in Swansea

Bas Lansdorp is an entrepreneur with a passion for ambitious projects. He is co-founder and CEO of Mars One, the Dutch foundation that aims to land the first human on Mars in 2032.

Lansdorp abandoned his PhD research in wind energy at Delft University of Technology to start his first company, Ampyx Power. Ampyx Power develops a novel, cheaper than coal, method of wind energy generation.

Lansdorp then sold part of his shares in Ampyx Power to finance the start of Mars One. Now, just three years later, Mars One is one of the established names in the world of space exploration. Mars One aims to send its first unmanned demonstration mission to Mars in 2022 and recently announced a contract with aerospace titan Lockheed Martin for this mission.

Dallas Campbell is a well known (and well travelled) television presenter who has a passion for popularising science and technology. He is best known for science magazine show Bang Goes the Theory, as well as landmark BBC series such as Supersized Earth, Egypt’s Lost Cities, The Treasure Hunters and Stargazing Live.

He is a proud member of the Ri and was a guest on the 2014 CHRISTMAS LECTURES, ‘Sparks will fly: How to hack your home’ with Prof Danielle George.

In 2015 Dallas won Celebrity Mastermind with legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog as his specialist subject.