An Introduction to Rocket Science

It’s not rocket science, you know” is such a cliché.

The British Interplanetary Society is offering a one-day introduction which assumes absolutely no knowledge of physics, space science or rocket science. A series of excellent presenters will give talks covering the basics of astronautics starting from “Why can’t we simply fly an aeroplane to space?” through to GPS, LEO and even the chances of meeting E.T.

At the conclusion of the day, the British Interplanetary Society will give out a certificate for attendees, signed by the BIS President, to hang on their walls in recognition that they’ve attended this introduction to rocket science.*

123The event will take place in the Faraday Theatre of the Royal Institution, Albemarle St, London W1S 4BS on Saturday 6 May between 8,30am and 6pm.
The Faraday Theatre is the venue of the renowned annual Christmas Lectures.

Ticket prices
£79 for standard attendees, booked through the BIS website
£49 for under 18s, students in full-time education, and members of the British Interplanetary Society, booked through the BIS website

Tickets may also be available on the day for £99 (£59 concessions) if space permits.

This event welcomes children aged 8 and above. Due to the nature of some of the talks – with noisy demonstrations – the event is not suitable for very young children.

Please note that catering will be available by purchase at this event. This is organised by the venue – the Royal Institution – and not the British Interplanetary Society

Any surplus funds from this event will go directly towards the British Interplanetary Society’s continued Space Education and Outreach activities. The BIS is the world’s oldest space advocacy organisation – initiating, promoting and disseminating new spaceflight and astronautics concepts in the UK since 1933. Become a member of the BIS here!

The British Interplanetary Society is a registered charity.



08:30 Doors open. There is an exhibition outside of the Faraday Theatre including stalls with space artefacts, books and art which can be visited until the start of the event.

09:30 Introduction
Gather together in the Faraday Theatre for an introduction to the day

09:45 Why can’t we simply fly to space in a plane?
Dr Nigel Bannister of the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Leicester will explain all this with the help of isopropyl alcohol!

10:25 How to build a spacecraft
Building satellites, propulsion and power – a “Haynes manual”. Shaun Kenyon, Chief Engineer at Sen Corporation will explain all.

11:00 Coffee break
Tea, coffee and breakfast will be available – you can visit our exhibition while you take a break

11:30 So what have satellites done for us?
Satnav, satcom, weather forecasts and whales in the cloud. Matthew Stuttard, the Head of Advanced Space Projects at Airbus, Stevenage takes the helm.

12:00 To The Moon and Back
Dr Olesya Myakonkaya, Senior Innovation Scientist will talk about the SpaceX and other projects to send people to the Moon and back.

12:10 Observing our planet from above
EO, LEO, GEO. There are lots of acronyms to do with space. Earth Observation – EO; the first of these acronyms – enables us to monitor global warming, see land use changes such as urbanisation and more. Andrew Cawthorne, Head of Earth Observation at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited will explain EO (LEO and GEO too!)

12:40 Astronauts or robots?
Dr Stuart Eves and Dr Chris Welch fight it out to persuade the audience whether astronauts or robotic missions are the future.

13:10 Lunch will be available for purchase from the Royal Institution catering team. The exhibition will be open once more.

14:00 The higher or lower quiz As the lunch break ends, a fun introduction to the afternoon talks, which begin again at 14.10. Hosted by Dr Stuart Eves, Lead Mission Concepts Engineer at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited.

14:10 Beyond Earth orbit
Designing better rockets and using new technology help us explore new worlds. Professor Chris Welch, Head of Astronautics and Space Engineering at the International Space University, Strasbourg will look further into the Solar System.

14:40 How to go to Mars
Abbie Hutty, Spacecraft Structures Engineer on the ExoMars Rover Vehicle Team at Airbus, Stevenage will talk about building a rover to explore the Red Planet.

15:10 E.T. Phone Home!
Hello? Hello? Is there anybody out there? The Drake equation, life, methane, alien mega-structures and the Goldilocks zone are explained by Dr Don Pollacco of the Department of Physics, University of Warwick.

15:40 Break
Tea, coffee and snacks can be found in the exhibition area where you can visit the stands.

16:10 What’s it like living in space?
An astronaut’s guide…

16:45 Space exploration
A guide on where we’ve got to so far and where we are going next. Dr John Zarnecki, President of the Royal Astronomical Society will take us on a tour of the galaxy.

17:15 Finding new Earths
Olesya Myakonkaya introduce a short video about the exoplanets found 40 light years away.

17:20 What’s next?
Nearly fifty years ago now, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the Moon. Are we on our way to Mars now or even further? Or will robotic missions take us further to other solar systems? Dr Chris Bridges, Lecturer in On-Board Data Handling at the University of Surrey takes us on a tour.

17:50 We’re doomed! Or are we?
At any moment, Earth could be hit by an asteroid or comet which would wipe us out as happened to the dinosaurs. But Jay Tate, Director of The Spaceguard Centre is here to tell us if we might be safe after all. 

18:30 Attendance certificates
After the event, you can collect your attendance certificate – ideal for displaying on your wall and signed by the BIS President.

The 1950 Bumper launch

Bumper launch – from 1950, the year ‘health and safety’ forgot

Click here to reserve your place


* Certificates will be printed in advance for attendees who sign up before 1 May. Those who sign up later, or on the day, need to leave their postal details.

Be sociable; support the BIS!