One small step for school pupils

Bruce McCandless visited Oyster Park School.
Bruce McCandless visited Oyster Park School.

Pupils in Castleford were over the moon when a real-life astronaut touched down for a unique visit.

The youngsters at Oyster Park School welcomed American Captain Bruce McCandless, the first man to carry out an untethered spacewalk in 1984.

The 80-year-old, who is from Boston, Massachusetts, chose the Watling Road school through the Space Lectures organisation, which contacted schools to scope out interest with Oyster Park the first to respond.

Captain McCandless spoke to pupils, telling them of his experiences and let the children ask questions.

Headteacher Jodie Chapman-Kemp said: “Captain Bruce discussed the two space missions he was part of, his untethered space walk, life on board a shuttle and what it was like in space.

“He said his inspiration for becoming an astronaut stemmed from reading comic strips as a child.

“Both the children and staff were very grateful for such an amazing opportunity.

“The children gained such a powerful insight of first hand experiences.

“We would like to thank Captain Bruce and the Space Lectures organisation for an inspirational morning. We feel very proud and privileged to have had a real-life astronaut visit Oyster Park.”

Beginning his career as a Navy flight officer Captain McCandless was aboard the USS Enterprise when it was dispatched during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 
1962. After logging more than 5,000 jet aircraft flying hours he was selected by NASA in 1966 at the age 28.

He was a capsule communicator for Apollo 11, the first craft to land on the moon in 1969 and part of the support crew for Apollo 14, the third to land.

He was part of the crew of Challenger which launched from Kennedy Sapce Centre in Florida in February 1984 and spent eight days in orbit.

During that time Captain McCandless used the Manned Manoeuvring Unit (MMU) for the first time - a propulsion backpack that allowed astronauts to spacewalk without being tethered to the shuttle.

He was also part of the crew aboard Discovery for the five-day flight in April 1990 which deployed the Hubble Space Telescope from a record-setting altitude of 380 miles.