Helen is a pioneer, role model, science communicator and world-class inspirational speaker. She became the first British Astronaut in May 1991, aged 27, when she spent 8 days orbiting the Earth. A selection of testimonials about Helen appears at the end of this biography.
A superb speaker, Helen Sharman enthuses her audience about Space, STEM and the wonders of science. She takes them on her journey, as she describes aspects of the meticulous training, preparation, launch and landing, how weightlessness feels, her science experiments, the team spirit and readjusting to life back on Earth.
Helen says “We should push forward, not only our individual boundaries, but also the boundaries of what humans believe is possible. People are the biggest limitations in our own lives. There’s a huge amount we can do and we should make the best use of our lives for the benefit of the world.”
Helen Sharman 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 Sharman 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.
Coping with risk was a daily activity. Teamwork was a vital element for success.
Helen Sharman 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.
On 01 January 2024, Audible released their brand-new podcast “Discover your Inner Astronaut” co-hosted by Helen Sharman and the American astronaut Nicole Stott.
“Captivating and inspirational, you delivered everything we asked for. A brilliant example of how a professional speaker tells their story and shares her amazing experiences”.
Managing Director, Experian Conference
“Helen is the most extraordinary person and a fabulous speaker. Feedback has been tremendous. Everyone is thrilled that she came to speak at Lincoln Cathedral. The speech, and the Q&A session, were superb.”
Peter Dayson, Director, Synergy Street Productions for Lincoln Cathedral
“Our company had a wonderful opportunity to listen and engage with Helen Sharman regarding her experience in space travel. It is a rare opportunity and privilege for people to listen to and ask questions about someone's first-hand experience on what it is like to train, and then travel to the space station. The knowledge and enthusiasm Helen shared with us was impressive and inspiring. We can't wait for the next opportunity to work with her again!”
VP Marketing, First Line Software
“We were thrilled to host Helen Sharman as our keynote speaker during the Festival of the Moon at Wells Cathedral. Helen shared her knowledge and passion with an audience that were engaged and captivated by her throughout the evening. Very much looking forward to continuing our relationship into 2022”
Matthew Minter, Business Development & Artistic Manager, Wells Cathedral
“A huge thank you for taking part in our BBC Science Week Live Lesson. We just wanted to express how much the team and the presenters enjoyed having you on set. We hope you enjoyed the experience – we certainly did!”
BBC Science Week Live Lesson
“Helen was absolutely fantastic. Her talk was well-prepared and engaging; a good balance between telling her story, interesting factual information and a dose of humour. She handled the Q&A exceedingly well and it sparked many conversations afterwards. Helen was very professional and a delight to work with from an organisational perspective. She knew exactly what to prepare on arrival, and we felt in safe hands. We had great feedback from those who attended, who found her story inspirational”.
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