What is Mission Discovery?

I know many of you have asked about Mission Discovery and I am sorry I haven’t had a chance to give you a full write-up about it til now…. Hopefully I’ll answer everything you are wondering but if I don’t please let me know!


Mission Discovery is an idea conceived by Chris from the International Space School Education Trust (ISSET). ISSET is the group that many NASA space shuttle and space station crews have gone over to the UK with to speak to students about space to try and get them excited about the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). It’s the same group that I have gone to the UK and India with for the same purpose. Chris asked me to help him develop and evolve Mission Discovery and of course I was excited to do this!

Patch from Imperial College Mission Discovery



Mission Discovery is a 5 day camp which basically runs from 9:30am-4:30pm each day. We use space as a conduit for getting kids excited about STEM subjects but it runs much deeper than just space info that we give them. We delve into lots of teamwork topics, leadership topics (including Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people), speaking and presentation skills and other subjects that are so vitally essential for doing well in school (and work and life!) but aren’t generally covered in schools.


Targeted student ages are upper level middle school (junior high),  high school and university age but we have had students as young as 9 come to Mission Discovery and excel and we have had adults in their 40s choose to participate and love it!


We divide the students up into teams and through the week there are team tasks that are designed to be fun but also to drive home a point that we’ve made during the day’s “learning” sessions. We always have at least 1 astronaut at the camp for the week and generally we try and have at least 1 astronaut presentation (of some sort) each day except for the last day. The ultimate project of the week is each team must work to come up with an idea for an experiment that could fly to space within very specific parameters. (Ideally if we have the proper funding this experiment would actually fly to the International Space Station.) You would be amazed at the ideas that these students have! We have university students who are studying STEM subjects as mentors for each team but they can also use those of us on the Mission Discovery team as mentors for their ideas too.

With John – one of the Mentors (and one of the key people in making Mission Discovery Adelaide happen!) 

With Sam another mentor (and make it happen guy!)


With Angus – another mentor and make it happen guy!

When we can we bring in local professors and such as well – bottom line we want to give these students as many opportunities as we can to talk to a variety of people who can give them guidance and support for their ideas. At the end of the week the groups compete to see who will win the best experiment. Unfortunately we have not yet had enough funding to fly an experiment in space but we are working on that! In lieu of that prize the students have received iPads for winning and they have been more than happy about that!


So far we have run 2 camps

  • Summer of 2011 at Imperial College in London (England)
  • January 2012 at University of Adelaide (Australia)

Both have been wildly successful and we have gotten such fantastic feedback from each.


I feel so very fortunate to get to be part of what I consider to be an amazing experience for students. I get to watch them grow in just a week’s time. No kidding – the difference in them the day the show up and get started on Day 1 to the end of Day 5 is incredible. It is so neat to watch. 

Me with one of the great students from our Adelaide Mission Discovery



We have a few more camps in work that we are looking forward to

  • Mission Discovery with a Biomedical theme at Kings College (London, UK) July 9-13th, 2012 http://www.isset.org/mission_discovery_kings.html
  • Girls Mission Discovery in conjunction with the Women’s Engineering Society at Salford College (Manchester, UK) for the first week of July (Details still working to be confirmed)
  • Other possibilities we are exploring are camps in the US (speaking to someone in Georgia this week!), another camp in Australia, Brazil, New Zealand

Interested in joining us for a camp that’s already scheduled? Check out the ISSET page to get signed up! We also offer a residential option for the week.


Having both attended and been a counselor at various camps I can tell you that the price of Mission Discovery is always very reasonable. (Prices may vary slightly from camp to camp because of location and expenses.)


Are you interested in having a Mission Discovery come to your area? Hold tight and my next blog will be about how to make that happen! (It’s easier than you think! So all you educators out there I hope you’ll consider it!) 


Here’s a general link to the ISSET Mission Discovery Page


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