RAF Air Cadets is literally reaching for the stars as it launches a new space syllabus with the help of British astronaut Tim Peake and its Ambassador, Honorary Group Captain Carol Vorderman.
Tim and Carol helped the cadets (known for decades light-heartedly as ‘space cadets') – to press the green launch button on the new training programme at the Royal International Air Tattoo, Gloucestershire.
The Space Award course has been launched in tandem with the Open University and puts the air cadets into orbit in terms of understanding the solar system and space exploration.
The RAF Air Cadets is already a world leader in terms of teaching cadets aviation related courses and was one of the first youth organisations to teach cyber including ethical hacking.
Stuart McNeill, of HQ RAF Air Cadets at RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire, who introduced the course with the Open University said: “This is a magnificent partnership. We approached the university because it has a history of running online courses. They welcomed it with open arms.”
The first modules of the syllabus will be released in October 2019 and will include a separate guide for instructors and an ACTO. A space badge will not be issued, but certificates will be made available for each of the progressive levels from Blue to Gold.
The RAF Air Cadets has always produced potential pilots for industry and for the military, although it is not a recruiting organisation for either.
With increased interest in space operations, technology and exploration, the RAF Air Cadets probably has the best programme of any youth organisation in the UK or the world to produce future astronauts.
RIAT was the 50th anniversary of the ‘first man on the moon’ when NASA’s astronaut Neil Armstrong broadcast to the watching world saying “it’s a small step for man and a giant leap for mankind”.
Stuart said: “It’s a giant leap for us to be able to deliver space and cyber as modern, dynamic and technology-based syllabus subjects for our air cadets aged 12-19.”
There is an instructors’ module for the subject to be delivered at the RAF Air Cadets 1,000 Air Training Corps squadrons across the UK and also for its 230 Combined Cadet Force (RAF) school based units.
Cadets passing the course will receive a certificate accredited by the OU.
Today Carol introduced Tim to the cadets and hosted a question and answer session before the programme was launched with a mini solar system planetarium central to the event.
Tim, himself a former cadet and an RAF scholarship winner, said he was delighted to see the RAF Air Cadets’ space programme.
A firm advocate of the Cadet Forces, he said: “We are seeing a lot more people going into space now. There are more opportunities.
“Being in the cadets gives you qualifications and it also builds character and forms your personality. It can get you a job. I am so grateful for being in the cadets.”
*If you want to join the RAF Air Cadets see www.raf.mod.uk/aircadets