Dr Jackie Bell: An astronaut in the making World Space Week takes place from the 4-10 October 2017. Here at the British Science Association, we're big fans of all things space-related. We gave you ‘Run the Solar System’ for British Science Week and we even have an astronaut in the making in our midst... Recently, the BBC’s ‘Astronauts: Do You Have What it Takes?’ was blasted to our screens. The programme followed 12 astronaut wannabees, put through their paces in a series of gruelling and terrifying tasks, matching those that real-life astronauts go through during their intense training. Much to the surprise of everyone at British Science Association HQ, one of our own, Dr Jackie Bell, was a star on the show. To celebrate World Space Week and Jackie's amazing achievement, we picked her brain to get the gossip on her astronaut experience. What is it that drives you to be an Astronaut? "I think it’s the idea of exploration and going somewhere that no one has ever been before that drives me to be an Astronaut. Current human spaceflight isn’t really going beyond low Earth orbit, with the International Space Station being the main destination, but in 40/50 years humans will be travelling to Mars and that’s really exciting because no human has ever set foot there before." What was the best part of the Astronauts process? "The best part was being selected. Where I grew up in Liverpool, I was one of the top students at my school. I then went to university where I was in the middle of the pack and I felt a very average person. Even though on the outside it seemed like I had achieved a lot, I never really felt special or felt that I had achieved much or won anything. "To be selected for Astronauts was the ultimate prize. I never felt like I completely fit in before, at school I stood out for being too clever and during my PhD I stood out for not being nerdy enough! "To be in a group where there were people who were academic but also had a sense of humour, were all-rounders and had similar hobbies to myself, was really nice because I didn’t stand out any more - I fit in. So that, and obviously meeting Chris Hadfield, was definitely the best thing for me.’ What was the worst part of the process? "The worst part for me was the underwater test [candidates were immersed in a tank underwater simulating a crash landing and asked to escape], because I’d never been under water before, which sounds silly because I’m 28, and it didn’t go too well. I was absolutely terrified." What did you learn most about yourself from the process? "I definitely feel more confident. I’ve never really had to face a fear head on before [like the underwater test]. I’ve done things which are scary, and I agree you should push yourself out of your comfort zone. The first time I performed on stage when I was competing with my cheerleading team, that was terrifying but in a nice way because it gets your adrenaline going. For the underwater stuff, and some of the other challenges we faced, we were getting monitored the whole time, which forced you to try and be calmer and hide the fear. It taught me how to stay calm, maintain my professionalism and face fears head on. Now it has made me confident that I can tackle bigger things." Is there anything you would have changed? "I would have definitely learnt to swim before. Although, then there would have been no drama! It’s really hard because I think besides the swimming, I prepared for the process as much as I could. I didn’t mentally prepare for making friendships, and I didn’t think everyone was going to be so supportive and that made me very emotional from the start. I’d just found this group where I really fit in, and to think that someone would be going home was really overwhelming for me. It was just like saying, here are all these gifts, and now I'm going to take them all away. If I could do it again, I would try to harden up a bit." What impact does space science and exploration have on us? "There’s actually a lot of space technology that they had previously designed for Apollo missions and trips to the International Space Station, that they now use for normal, everyday people on Earth. For example, baby food, which is nutrient enriched to increase its shelf-life thanks to NASA technologies, was a by-product of developments for long-duration space travel. "Satellite communications, sat-nav, TV, all of that, it all came from sending satellites into space. With these satellites we can now see deforestation happening and climate change in effect." There are lots more NASA spin-off technologies, check them out here What words of encouragement would you give to young people who might want a career in science? "I would say find something that you’re really interested in and try to develop an expertise in that field. Expand your horizons a little, see what’s out there, and then choose what you want to do. "Look a bit further and do some work experience. NASA, ESA, and the UK Space Agency all do work experience placements, but you have to make the first move, no one’s going to come to you and offer you all of these things, you have to go and find them. It may seem like you hit a bit of a brick wall sometimes but just keep at it – never give up. "What’s your edge, what is your area of expertise, what can you offer that no one else can? And even if that’s something you’ve built up as a hobby around your study or work, it will give you that edge needed in the competitive world we live in today." Astronauts: Do You Have What it Takes? was broadcast on BBC2 on Sunday evenings. You can catch up on the series on iPlayer and learn more about the people who took part. Follow Jackie on Twitter, @sciencesummedup We hope you use World Space Week to try something new! Go star-gazing, have a look at the NASA International Space Station live stream, or have a go at Run the Solar System, there’s lots you can be doing to mark the occasion.