Dr Don Thomas during a 2017 school visit. Picture: Supplied

Cape Town - As part of the Living Maths Space Tour talk, former NASA astronaut, Dr Don Thomas, a veteran of 692 space orbits of Earth, will be talking to Christel House on the Cape Flats on Friday at 13:30.

Fifty years ago, on the 20th of July 1969, NASA’s famed Apollo 11 programme enabled the first humans to walk upon a different world, the Earth’s only moon.  The world’s celebrations of this extraordinary feat of human ingenuity, our remarkable Maths and Science; and certain individuals’ willingness to go where we have not gone before, are far from over.

South African students and their families will soon have the rare opportunity to connect and engage with former NASA astronaut, Dr Don Thomas, a veteran of 692 space orbits of the Earth.

STEM-based educational NGO Living Maths, is bringing Dr Thomas to Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Lesotho for the Space Tour 2019 from the 11th to the 20th of September. Dr Thomas is a man on a generous mission to inspire what he often refers to as the ‘Mars Generation’. 

Becoming an astronaut is one of those aspirational careers that frequently features on the lists of children’s top dream jobs.  

Meeting Dr Thomas on his Space Tour brings the adventures of an astronaut out of the realms of books, TV shows and movies into their real-world experience.  He gives learners and parents a different perspective of the possibilities of the not so distant future, at the time when human travel to Mars tops the current space agenda.

Dr Thomas said: “I am excited about being a part of Living Maths’ Space Tour 2019 and look forward to sharing my experiences with the learners and general public in South Africa.  It’s very special to be able to do this during the 50th anniversary year of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  So while we celebrate that accomplishment, we hope to be inspiring the next generation of mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and astronauts to help us with the missions to our next destination in space…Mars!  I look forward to meeting everyone during the tour.”

To date, 533 humans have space-travelled like Don Thomas to reach Earth orbit; 3 other people completed a sub-orbital space flight, and only 12 astronauts have walked on the moon. (Of course, the life’s work of many, many thousands of others made this all possible.)  With the incredible pace of modern technological change and disruption, the rarity of being an astronaut in space is set to change.  

“Do we have the next generation of budding imagineers and daydreamers, scientists, mathematicians and engineers?” asks Steve Sherman, Chief Imagination Officer at Living Maths.  

“Could South Africans be amongst them? I think so!  Parents, schools and teachers have such an important role to play in gently turning children from their immersion in meaningless screen activities towards bold, curious adventures in our real world, our universe.  Meeting a bona fide spaceman can be one of those pivotal turning points in a child’s life, where achievement in STEM subjects and activities brings to their whole lives a visceral sense of purpose and incredible enjoyment of being alive in their time.”

As part of the tour, Dr Thomas will take his inspiring message to Christel House – a school for severely under-privileged children on the Cape Flats - courtesy of the Amdec Group. 

“Ours is a company built on firm family values, so we are committed to building a brighter future for our country’s children through initiatives linked to education and sports development.  What better way to enrich, empower, and inspire the leaders of tomorrow than through the pioneers and heroes of the past?” said Shannon Mark, CSI Manager for the Amdec Group.   

The 2019 Living Maths’ Space Tour provides a unique opportunity for South African children and their parents to think big and entertain the possibilities of what it means to live life in extraordinary ways.

Find out about what it is really like to be shot off the Earth into space and to live and work in a shuttle while orbiting the planet.  Learn about the ‘Overview Effect’, a life-changing experience for space travellers such as Dr Don Thomas which ripples out on Earth for the greater benefit of humanity.  Mars beckons, and we need our children to be fit and ready.

Cape Argus