What is World Space Week, when did it start and events

Earth planet viewed from space , 3d render of planet Earth.
World Space Week has begun (Picture: ABIDAL via Getty)

While it often leaves us mystified and can lead to some rather deep thoughts and reflections, space continues to fascinate us.

Recently, we found out that Mars’ surface may have been shaped by ancient floods from overflowing craters, while the debate surrounding the existence of alien life blows on.

And, as important research and new discoveries are regularly made, it’s important to recognise the people behind them.

So, what is World Space Week and why was it created?

What is World Space Week and when is it?

World Space Week is an international celebration of science and technological advancements, along with the contribution to the ‘betterment of the human condition’, according to the event’s website.

In 1999, the UN General Assembly declared that the celebration was to be held from October 4-10 every year, including this year.

First Woman In Space Visits The Science Museum
This year’s theme is ‘Women in Space’ and it also celebrates Valentina Tereshkov, who was the first woman in space (Picture: Leon Neal via Getty)

It is the largest space event on earth and, with over 8,000 events in 96 countries having been reported for the 2019 edition.

It has a different theme each year, with last year’s being ‘Satellites Improve Life’ and the first-ever theme for the event, in 2000, was ‘Launching the Space Millennium’.

Excitingly, the 2021 theme celebrates ‘Women in Space’ and the accomplishments and contributions of women to the space sector and sciences.

The event website states: ‘This week we celebrate the fact that on 16 June 1963 Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space.’

Valentina Vladmirovna Tereshkova is a former cosmonaut. She was the first and youngest woman to have flown into space, and the only woman to have flown a solo in space. She hails from Maslennikovo, Russia and was born on March 6, 1937 making her 84 years old.

She once said: ‘A bird cannot fly with one wing only. Human space flight cannot develop any further without the active participation of women’

The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) organised a special ‘Women in Space’ panel during its meetings this year, which featured female space pioneers from countries including Argentina, China, Japan, Nigeria and the US.

What UK events are there for the 2021 World Space Week?

Due to the pandemic, many World Space Week events were virtual for 2020. And, that theme continues to an extent for 2021, with some events being online-only.

STEMFest in space is aimed at kids in schools, colleges and community groups, and can be watched live from the UK on Thursday, October 7, from 9.30am onwards.

girl playing The Astronaut
There are plenty of child-friendly educational events in the UK to mark World Space Week 2021 (Picture: SolStock via Getty)

With a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), it is set to feature speakers including ex-army veteran Sarah Murray, who has been with NASA since 1995 and is the Project and Technical Lead in NASA’s Orion Program Vehicle Integration Office. Additionally, you’ll get to hear from Dave Mackay, Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot, Suzie Imber, Associate Professor of Space Physics at the University of Leiceste, and more. It’s free to sign up here.

On Saturday, October 9, from 8.30am to 4pm, head to Tunsgate Quarter Shopping Centre in Guildford for the chance to drive a Mars Rover from Airbus thanks to the Institute of Physics South Central Brand. You’ll also be able to enjoy arts and crafts activities, as well as live music and performances, and experience interactive stalls about black holes and other hands-on activities. It’s free to attend, too.

Another free event that’s open to all and set to be super-educational is the World Space Week Public Lectures by Institute of Physics and University of Surrey.

It’ll be held at the Rik Medlik Building at the University of Surrey, and you’ll see Dr Laura Nuttall, a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and a Reader of Astrophysics at the University of Portsmouth, delving into the world of gravitational waves. While Professor Chris Lintott, professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford, explores topics such as galaxy evolution and machine learning. There’ll also be a question and answer session at the end.

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