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Maggie Aderin-Pocock

From space instruments to the Blue Peter satellite

3 March 2009

I am London-born and bred. When I was six I was amazed by images from space probes, and I decided I want to travel to the places in the pictures. At 14 I made my own telescope. Now I have a degree in Physics and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering (both from Imperial College London) and I make novel, bespoke instrumentation for space and ground based missions.

I work at Astrium Ltd in Portsmouth where I head the optical instrumentation group. I manage a range of projects making satellite sub-systems designed to monitor wind speeds and other variables in the Earth’s atmosphere. These systems are made under the European Space Agency’s Living Planet programme and are designed to improve our knowledge of climate change and predict the weather more accurately.

In 2006 I was awarded a science in society fellowship from the Science and Technology Facilities Council. This has enabled me to spend more time promoting science through the media and through outreach talks to schoolchildren and adults. This year is amazingly busy – because it’s the International Year of Astronomy it’s a chance to give space science a really high profile. With support from IYA UK 2009 and the Royal Astronomical Society, I’m leading on ‘the UK ‘She is an Astronomer’ programme, to make sure women and astronomy get a high profile during the year and to encourage women and girls to take part. The UKRC conference on 12 March is our launch pad for the year.

I’m doing lots with Blue Peter for IYA 2009 – we are launching a Blue Peter satellite into outer space! And for a slightly older audience, there’s going to be a series of ‘She’s an Astronomer’ items with Woman’s Hour through the year. The first one is recorded on the morning of the UKRC conference – if you can’t listen when the broadcast goes out, do go to BBC iplayer and listen again. You’ll be able to find the latest information on activities at IYA UK 2009 She is an Astronomer .

I love of science: in my spare time (!) I run my own company, Science Innovation Ltd, to engage school children and adults around the world in the wonders of space. To date 10,000 people across the world have taken a journey to the stars with me. Now I’ve added new projects – on global astronomy, on big instrumentation on climate change and what we can learn from space.

I am enjoying my career on Earth but I’d still like to make a journey into space. Not as a space tourist: my retirement plan is to emigrate to Mars.

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock works at Astrium Ltd and runs Science Innovation Ltd. She is leading the UK 'She is an Astronomer Programme', part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. She has won many awards, including an MBE in the 2009 New Years Honours list. In 2006 she was one of six Woman of Outstanding Achievement, awarded by UKRC. 

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