Astronauts in Portsmouth

Nasa astronauts, fresh from a 12-day space flight on the shuttle Atlantis, met some very old technology today with a visit to a historic warship.

The six-strong Atlantis shuttle crew went aboard Nelson's flagship HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, at the start the Nasa UK tour.

Until July 7, the crew - Mission Commander Ken Ham, Garrett Reisman, Steve Bowen, Tony Antonelli, Michael Good, British-born Piers Sellers, and Cmdr Ham's wife Michelle, a veteran astronaut - will meet as many young people as possible to talk about space and inspire them.

Mary RoseLater today there will be a presentation to thousands of schoolchildren at Fratton Park football ground in Portsmouth.
The visit was part organised by Portsmouth Grammar School. Spokesman Jeremy Thomas said: ''They are fantastic guys and they have been interacting with our pupils.''

Mr Thomas said pupils would see the film the crew made when they were in space at the football ground before they headed off for the next leg of the tour in Cardiff and a civic reception there tonight. ''It's a punishing schedule even for astronauts,'' he added. The crew will also visit London, Durham, Newcastle and Kent.

During their visit to Portsmouth, the Atlantis Space Shuttle crew were presented with a piece of the Mary Rose, the flagship of King Henry VIII, with a view to sending it up to space on a future mission.

The presentation took place at a gala dinner Sunday 27th June, on board HMS Warrior 1860, another ship that accompanies the Mary Rose at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. John Lippiett, Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust, who made the presentation to the astronauts, commented:

Mary Roseβ€œIt is really tremendous to have the opportunity to present this little piece of the Mary Rose to the visiting Shuttle crew to take back to Houston, in the hope that it will be taken into space on a future mission. This parrel, in effect a wooden ball-bearing measuring some 3x3”, was part of the mechanism used to hoist the yards carrying the sails up the mast. It was therefore fundamental to the propulsion of this our first true warship. The Mary Rose was as revolutionary in technological advances 500 years ago as the Space Shuttle was in the early 1980s. Both have helped pioneer exploration and advance the sciences. It is most appropriate to mark their place in history in this manner.”