Helen Sharman CMG OBE Keynote Speaker

  • Britain's first astronaut
  • Faculty Technical Manager for Science, Engineering and Computing, Kingston University (2013-present)
  • Leading communicator of science, teamwork and motivation

Helen Sharman CMG OBE's Biography

Helen Sharman became the first British Astronaut in May 1991, aged 27, when she spent 8 days orbiting the Earth.

Helen didn’t think she stood the smallest chance of being selected when she applied, after hearing an advert on the car radio on her way home from work. Over 13,000 other people also applied for this one-off opportunity. But Helen was exactly the type of person they were looking for – calm, practical, friendly, professional, a team player. Two people were chosen for the rigorous training but only one – Helen – went into Space.

Before starting her training, Helen underwent the rigorous selection process with psychological and medical assessments, technical understanding and practical skills. This was followed by 18 months of intensive spaceflight training, which included learning Russian, preparing for “feeling weightless” and g-force, learning how to cope inside a cramped space capsule, how to deal with a landing in the sea and training for all possible scenarios (positive and negative) which might happen when in orbit, travelling at 17,500 miles an hour.

Helen carried out spacecraft operations during the launch.  On board the Space Station, her tasks included medical, agricultural and chemical experiments, materials testing, Earth observation work and operating an amateur radio link with British school students. Media interviews were a frequent occurrence.

Helen has not returned to space. But, like every other astronaut, she would love to go to space again, to experience the feeling of weightlessness, the camaraderie …. and the amazing and beautiful views of Earth and the stars.

After her successful spaceflight, Helen chose to become a science communicator and speaker. She has won numerous prizes for radio and TV programmes and for her inspirational talks on teamwork, STEM, science communication and motivation.

She often meets teachers who were inspired to study science after hearing her speak: her speech changed their lives, and now they pass on their passion and expertise to new generations of young scientists and engineers.

Helen was awarded the OBE in 1993. In the New Year Honours List 2018, she was further awarded a rare honour, being made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for services to Science and Technology Educational Outreach. She received the CMG from Her Majesty The Queen at Windsor Castle in 2018.  In October 2020, Helen celebrated Space Week at the National Space Centre, Leicester, with HRH The Countess of Wessex.

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Videos of Helen Sharman CMG OBE

Space: The ups and downs of modern exploration | The Royal Society of Chemistry (2015)
Space: The ups and downs of modern exploration | The Royal Society of Chemistry (2015)
WIRED: Next Generation talk (2014)
WIRED: Next Generation talk (2014)
Royal Society Lecture: Spaceflight (2013)
Royal Society Lecture: Spaceflight (2013)

Books by Helen Sharman CMG OBE

Seize The Moment: The Autobiography of Britain's First Astronaut
The Space Place (Making Sense of Science)

Comments & Testimonials

"The panel discussion was excellent and the feedback outstanding. Your contributions were very much appreciated by the other speakers and attendees."
Royal Aeronautical Society President’s Conference
"Helen has spoken at a wide range of our events over the years. From festival fields, to huge theatres and global livestreamed events during the pandemic, each and every time she takes the stage (or screen) you can feel a rumble through the audience as they come to terms with the fact they are now in the presence of a true icon of space, scientific and human endeavour. That she so effortlessly engages with a brilliant, warm, engaging and impassioned talk or conversation is quite the party trick”
Trent Burton, Co-Director of The Cosmic Shambles Network & Trunkman Productions
“I adore sharing the stage with Helen Sharman. Every time is as fun and fascinating as the first. From school halls to The Albert Hall, her energy and passion fill the room. Not only does she have a thrilling story to tell, she tells it brilliantly. Astronaut, scientist and master storyteller. She is a rare talent indeed!”
Dallas Campbell, TV science presenter, broadcaster, writer
“Fabulous feedback from our audience! Helen Sharman had some people in tears with her very special message, tailored for us. Incredible day.”
Unity 3D Software Summer 2021

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