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Powerhouse Connects Students with International Space Station

View of planet Earth from International Space StationApril 4, 2022

Image: The Northrop Grumman Cygnus and SpaceX Dragon spacecrafts, NASA


The Powerhouse has announced a space-based virtual and real-world learning experience designed to connect Western Sydney high school students with the International Space Station. Through an innovative collaboration between the Powerhouse, and the NSW Department of Education, students will be challenged to use NASA-inspired design thinking techniques to develop their own space and Earth-based experiments.

The Powerhouse: Future Space program was launched at a local participating school, Arthur Phillip High School on Friday 1 April by the new Head of the Powerhouse Parramatta Lang Walker Family Academy Sophie Poisel, STEM Project Advisor Dr Scott Sleap, and Sue Walker. It is the first program to roll-out in high schools under the auspices of the Powerhouse Parramatta Lang Walker Family Academy, made possible by the Walker Family Foundation’s $20 million gift announced in 2021.

The launch of the Powerhouse: Future Space program was also attended by Badri Younes, NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator and Program Manager for Space Communications and Navigation, who oversees NASA’s three space communications networks – the Space Network, Near Earth Network, and Deep Space Network. Younes presented on current – and future – space communications technologies like optical and quantum communications for Arthur Phillip High School and East Hills Girls Technology High School students, who are also participating in the program.

The program connects Stage 5 students (Years 9 and 10) from six Western Sydney local government areas to a global network of learners through the ExoLab-10 mission. The 2022 mission ‘Carbon Farmer’ uses scientific enquiry to teach students about the importance of the carbon cycle on Earth and in space. Students will become climate change solutionaries by experimenting with growing alfalfa in the classroom. By conducting their own ground trials in line with an active experiment on board the International Space Station they can compare data on effective methods for growing crops in microgravity to sustain future space missions and help filter carbon dioxide from the air for astronauts on long space flights.

Powerhouse: Future Space will be delivered in tandem with the Powerhouse: Design For Space Challenge as part of the newly developed newly developed iSTEM Department Approved Elective. Throughout the three-year program, high schools across NSW will have the opportunity to design and produce their own prototype ExoLab device, simulating a space mission to the International Space Station. The most successful prototype will be launched as early as 2024. Maitland Grossmann High School and Murrumbidgee Regional High School will be involved in a virtual pilot of the program.

“Giving Western Sydney students the chance to be part of a simulated mission to the International Space Station is an incredible way to launch our Lang Walker Family Academy. Quality STEM education is crucial to ensuring our next generations lead the way in these industries of the future. We are proud to be a driving force behind this research initiative to enable kids to learn about the carbon cycle on earth and its comparisons in space,” said Lang Walker AO.

“The Powerhouse: Future Space program offers Western Sydney high school students a unique opportunity to directly engage with the International Space Station and their peers conducting virtual trials across Australia and around the world. We’re grateful to Powerhouse Parramatta’s Lang Walker Family Academy for enabling distinctive and richly deserved educational opportunities and vocational pathways for Western Sydney students,” said The Hon. Dr Geoff Lee, Member for Parramatta.

“The Powerhouse is excited to partner with the NSW Department of Education and to deliver this innovative Future Space program as part of the Lang Walker Family Academy. We are committed to delivering world-class immersive STEM education experiences for high school students from Western Sydney and regional NSW and fostering STEM skills and career pathways for the next generation,” said Powerhouse Chief Executive, Lisa Havilah.

“The Parramatta Future Space program provides a unique opportunity for students to be inspired through the prism of space. The NSW Department of Education, Powerhouse Museum and teams have established an innovative partnership that harnesses the strengths of each institution to deliver a truly world-class STEM program. Through this program, students will access ground-breaking technologies, stimulating curriculum, and a global team of scientists, engineers, educators, and entrepreneurs. Over the course of this three-year program students will utilise NASA-inspired design thinking techniques to prepare an actual space mission on the International Space Station. Ultimately, we hope graduates will be leaders amongst of the 20,000 space jobs estimated to be created by 2030,” said STEM Project Advisor 7-12 NSW Department of Education, Dr Scott Sleap.


About Lang Walker Family Academy

In one of the largest donations ever to an Australian cultural institution, the Walker Family Foundation donated $20 million to the Lang Walker Family Academy and associated programs, a commitment that will fund access to world-class immersive STEM education experiences at the museum for over 10,000 high school students from Western Sydney and regional NSW every year, including overnight stays at the museum for many of these students.

The Lang Walker Family Academy programs will commence in 2022 in Western Sydney with in-school STEM education programming being planned for schools in the Blacktown, Campbelltown, Liverpool, Bankstown, Penrith and Parramatta LGAs.

About is an educational company based in Berkeley, California, that operates missions in microgravity aboard the International Space Station for schools, science centres and museums across the world. is an Industry Partner of the NSW Department of Education through the department’s STEM Industry Schools Partnership program and recently completed the collaborative Australian Virtual Astronaut project which connected over 7000 students in 200 schools across Australia.

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Media Enquiries
Georgia McKay, Head of Communications & Engagement, Powerhouse Museum / 0466 223 293