Tag Archives: astronomy

Astronauts

I met a spaceman at the weekend. More importantly, my two little girls met a spaceman. Astronaut Chris Hadfield, who I posted about last May when he both entertained and inspired the world, taught my youngest daughter to shake hands for the first time at the age of five.

And he was awesome.

I have no doubt that Chris Hadfield has completed many important tasks out there in space but one of the most important things he has done, in my opinion, is excite the people down here on Earth. And especially the children.

I have never been to space and maybe I’ll never get there but all the way back in 2010, I began my own mission: to inspire and excite children about space. Through a funny cartoon show, I wanted to introduce very young children to the planets in our Solar System. The real planets, all of which are completely mind-blowing. Whole other worlds. And, for me, that was just the beginning. The idea behind Planet Cosmo is that it would spark questions. That kids could go back to their parents and ask, why is Mercury so cold at night? How many moons do other planets have? What other suns are out there? What other planets are there?

The hope was that an interest would be ignited and that parents would recognise that and feed that interest. The show launched last year.

And you know what?

Planet Cosmo has worked. It hasn’t yet spread internationally as quick as I would have loved (it is, however, already it is making its way to Finland, Portugal and Iceland). But wow, it worked. Right here in Ireland, I have had some of the most amazing mails and feedback from parents. The ones that make me smile the most are those where the parents got involved – made Solar System mobiles with their kids, for example. When it isn’t just about a kid but a whole family sharing in interest in space.

Those are our future astronauts. Our future technicians, engineers. Even right here in little Ireland, software and equipment is being developed for space missions. In the future, who knows? Today’s kids could very well be astronauts. It’s more than just a dream. And right now, they are little astronauts. We are on a planet. In our Solar System. We are all in space. Making that known and igniting the imagination is so important.

Our little astronauts are wonderful.

So I thank Commander Chris Hadfield for doing a far bigger, better job than I could have ever done. I hope he has inspired your children, as he has inspired mine. His book is excellent, by the way. And if you haven’t yet checked out Planet Cosmo, give it a look. It’s often on RTEjr here in Ireland and there is a whole episode on YouTube below for anyone to watch. From here, I would love to continue that mission – to inspire and educate kids about space exploration and the awesomeness of it all. And I know it is a mission many others share so, who knows, there could be new partnerships, new concepts, new forms.

I suspect I shall end up doing a lot more work for all our little astronauts. I certainly hope so.

For those looking to find interesting space stories for their kids beyond Planet Cosmo, check out SEN.com and Discovery Space and there are some really good children’s books too, such as My Tourist Guide To The Solar System and the Illustrated Encyclopedia Of The Universe.

PlanetsOrDinosaurs

There were two subjects I was fascinated with as a child – space and dinosaurs. I thought perhaps that they were locked to their time (especially space with much more attention being given to space travel in the ’70s and ’80s) and that they were a boy thing (especially dinosaurs).

I was so wrong.

My daughter Daisy became curious about dinosaurs at around three years old, initially from Peppa Pig’s Mr. Dinosaur (or, more correctly, George Pig’s). A conversation with me on what a dinosaur was led to a genuine interest.

She became curious about space at around the same age, when she noticed the Moon one evening. Again, a conversation with me about it led to a genuine interest.

I learned two important lessons:

Lesson 1: Talk to your children.
Lesson 2: Girls in this day and age find dinosaurs and space fascinating.

So I aimed to feed Daisy’s interest. Looking to books, I found a bunch of baby books (‘this dinosaur has a purple tail’) and quite a few very technical books for older children… but, at the time, pretty much nothing in between. Very little that was aimed at preschoolers and yet taught quality information on either space or dinosaurs.

Talking with other children and parents, it seemed my Daisy wasn’t alone. Other children had these interests too. But, when interests aren’t fed, they quickly fade. And the world wasn’t offering what I needed to feed those interests in an age-appropriate way.

So I decided to take action and do what I do – create.

And the choice became simply: planets or dinosaurs?

You know which one I chose. Several years later, Daisy was six years old and watching Planet Cosmo along with her younger sister Alice and, of course, with children across the country and soon the world. Today, I have added to my gallery some images showing the visual development of Planet Cosmo. I hope you find it interesting.

And dinosaurs? Well the end of this particular story is still to come…