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Cadets play detective at Tayside Space School

11 June 2014

The Tayside Space School cadets will go through their final training at Abertay University this Saturday (June 14), in preparation for the week-long summer school they will attend at the end of the month.

The aspiring astronauts have already learnt about the solar system, what would happen to their bodies if they went into space without a spacesuit, and the amazing exploratory endeavours that humans have achieved so far.

This weekend, the cadets will find out about food contamination and some of the other challenges that astronauts face in space.

They will take part in a number of exciting hands-on experiments, and get the chance to play detective when they try to find the source of contaminated food.

Food Technologist Dr Jon Wilkin, who will lead the session on food contamination in space, explains what it will be about:

"This will be an interactive session, where the cadets will get to play detective as they hunt for the source of contaminated food.

"We'll teach them about Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), which is a food safety tool that was designed by NASA and a company called Pillsbury in the 1960s to prevent astronauts from getting sick, but is now part of the food industry.

"Being sick is bad enough when you're on solid ground, but if you're sick in outer space it can be especially unpleasant as the lack of gravity means it can get absolutely everywhere. So HACCP played a vital role in preventing astronauts from becoming ill.

"Food for astronauts has changed quite a lot since the 1960s, but cross-contamination remains a big issue both in space and here on earth - in everything from restaurants to food manufacturing, school canteens to our own homes.

"So although HACCP was developed for use in space, it is now something that we use here on earth as well to ensure food is safe for everyone.

"We'll illustrate why food safety is so important by using something called Wash and Glow - a dust that, although invisible to the naked eye, glows when viewed under UV (ultraviolet) light.

"We'll get the cadets to make a ham sandwich in our food lab, but we’ll have spiked it with some of the dust, which gets everywhere and is easily passed by hand contact.

"We'll then use a UV light to help the cadets investigate where the dust has come from, what they've touched in the process of making their sandwiches, and see how easy it can be for bugs and bacteria to be spread and for food to become contaminated.

"Then we'll get them to think of ways in which it might be possible to prevent this type of contamination from happening, and get them to repeat the process of making the sandwich, adding in any of their suggestions to the process.

"The hope is that this hands-on experience will get them interested in food science and get them thinking about the types of space-related careers that being a food scientist could lead to."

Dr Alan Bruce will lead a session on the magic of science in space, which will involve a number of experiments requiring audience participation.

He explains:

"All aspects of our everyday lives are governed by science and on Saturday, we'll examine a range of biology, chemistry and physics experiments to find out how some of the basic scientific principles - such as pressure, electrical currents and the gas/liquid interchange - work here on earth.

"We’ll then look at how things like the changing forms of different compounds - from solids to liquids to gasses - and the effects of pressure and electricity, relate to some of the challenges that astronauts face in outer space.

"This will involve the use of pressure chambers, capacitors used to shoot holes in tin foil, and freezing flowers and balloons using liquid nitrogen.

"There'll be lots of opportunities for the cadets to try things for themselves, and hopefully this will make them curious to find out more about science and all it has to offer, so they'll consider sticking with it at school, go on to study it in further or higher education and consider following a career in science or in space exploration."


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07922041198 E:

Notes to Editors:

Tayside Space School runs every year, and is led by Abertay University in conjunction with Dundee City Council.

This is the final Space School session before the week-long summer school which begins on Monday, June 30.

During that week, an astronaut and Space Educator will visit from NASA to help support local primary school teachers to run workshops, which will include 'Mission to Mars' and 'Rocket Launching', where the children will get to carry out their own experiments and have the chance to ask any questions they may have about what it takes to get a job in the field of space exploration.

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