Garfield Primary's name will be carried aboard the Solar Orbiter
A Wimbledon school is going into space with a pioneering European mission to delve into the secrets of the sun by taking the closest ever pictures of the star.
Garfield Primary School’s name will be carried onboard Solar Orbiter when it launches from Cape Canaveral in Florida next week on a £1.3bn mission to gather unprecedently detailed photographs and measurements of the sun.
The mission, billed as the most important for Britain for a generation, aims to understand phenomena such as solar winds and the sun’s magnetic fields.
Among those watching will be Imperial College scientist Helen O’Brien, who has two children at the school and is part of the British team working on the project with the European Space Agency.
Helen decided Garfield should be part of the adventure after being bowled over by Year 5 and 6 pupils’ enthusiasm for space travel when she talked to them about her work last year.
So she arranged for Garfield Primary School’s name to be recorded on the memory chip of the Solar Orbiter’s magnometer, which will provide detailed measurements of the sun’s magnetic fields.
“The children were so engaged and enthusiastic that we decided Garfield should get the chance to go into space with our instrument,” said Helen, who is instrument manager for the magnometer. “Garfield Primary will therefore travel with the instrument on its journey close to the Sun!”
Garfield headteacher Michèle Thomas added: “I have always known Garfield is an out-of-this-world place for pupils to learn and I am always telling them to reach for the stars. Thanks to our parental involvement our school is now doing exactly that and becoming part of space travel history.”
Scientist Helen O’Brien is pictured alongside Michèle Thomas with a certificate proving that the school's name is on the mission.
The mission comes just a week after Garfield’s achievements were recognised by Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond, who wrote to the school to congratulate staff and pupils on its “excellent” Key Stage 2 Sats results, which showed an increase in the proportion of children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths.
Solar Orbiter’s lift-off is scheduled for 23.03 local time on Sunday February 9 (04.03 GMT on Monday).
The spacecraft will fly as close as 42 million km to the sun, even closer than Mercury, the nearest planet to the star. It will need to withstand heat of up to 500 oC and is due to be gathering data for at least seven years.
February 6, 2020