STEM and Soft Skills

STEM & Soft Skills 1/7: Astronauts

Ian Couchman
July 25, 2020

Look how they shine for you.


In 2016, 18,300 US citizens applied to work for NASA as an astronaut. Since 1960 only 350 have been selected. The very brightest. The very fittest. The very strongest. And they'd have to be, right? To trust them to travel half a million miles in control of upwards of $50m of kit. Maybe.


But maybe you don't care. When you look in the cockpit video from the recent SpaceX launch you don't see a Hollywood superhero, you see a team. So yes, they've got to know the science and yes they've got to have the capability to deal with the physical exertions. But it strikes me that above all that they have to be able to execute together, potentially under huge stress. They have to be able to communicate well, they have to understand people and they have to trust each other.


Put like that, I wonder if the same is true for any career. If you want someone to do a job well for a month get the person who knows the most. If you want someone to do a job well for year, get the person who knows how to learn. If you want someone to change the world, find someone who can empathise.

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Questions for kids


Social Skills: Who would you want to be in a rocket with and why?


Discuss whether they would be like you or different? How would you resolve problems? What skills do you value in people you spend lots of time with? What qualities do you have? How many people would you like to share a rocket with?


Philosophy: If you found yourself in an alien's back garden are you exploring or invading?

Discuss how you might hope the alien would behave? How is this different from how you might feel if an alien landed in your back garden?


Resilience: Is it Elon Musk's successes that make him great or his failures?


Discuss what it means to fail? How might he have been measuring success? If you set out to make a product and you make yourself and those around you happy but the product doesn't sell, have you been successful?


Critical Thinking: What does it takes to travel to the stars?

Discuss whether people should spend money on space travel or hospitals on Earth? What resources could be out in Space that it is worth trying to find?


Let's start some great conversations and check out the App for lots more questions!

Read the next blog in the series here.

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Written by
Ian Couchman

Ian is a dad of 2 kids and leads a team of engineers delivering technical services to the renewable energy sectors. He is passionate about green energy, STEM education, and soft skills alike, and will be guest posting for KidCoach to bring us his very own Summer Challenge!

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