UCLH doctor starts countdown to Christmas Lectures 

01/09/2015 00:00 
UCLH doctor and space medicine expert Kevin Fong, supported by the astronauts of the International Space Station (ISS), will present the Royal Institution’s 2015 CHRISTMAS LECTURES ‘How to survive in space’.

In December 2015, Tim Peake will become the first Briton in space for more than 20 years. In celebration of the occasion, the 2015 CHRISTMAS LECTURES will shine a spotlight on international achievements in space science and engineering on BBC Four this Christmas.

This year’s Christmas Lecturer is Dr Kevin Fong, UCLH consultant anaesthetist and expert in space medicine, who will open a window onto today’s most exciting space missions, explore the future of space travel and offer a unique insight into the challenges of protecting human life in the hostile environment of space.

Kevin will present the demonstration-packed three-part series with the help of Tim, and his fellow ISS crew members, as he starts his six month mission on board the International Space Station (ISS), working for the European Space Agency (ESA) and supported by the UK Space Agency. Back on Earth in the Royal Institution’s famous theatre, in front of a live audience, Kevin will be joined by a host of special guests who will explain how their research contributes to the remarkable team effort of sending humans safely into space.

The Lectures will start with the nail-biting journey from planet Earth into Low Earth Orbit and beyond, before Kevin and ISS astronauts reveal the challenges and dangers of daily life 400 kilometres above the Earth. The series will end with a glimpse into the future, asking where our spirit of adventure will take us next.

Kevin said: “I am incredibly proud to be presenting this year’s CHRISTMAS LECTURES, a programme my parents and I, and now my children and I, enjoy watching every year. I have been fascinated by space, and particularly the idea of astronauts, for as long as I can remember. The chance to work with British astronaut Tim Peake and the other astronauts on the International Space Station and share the wonders of space exploration with the next generation is an enormous honour.

“Sending a human into space is one of the most complex things that we as a species are capable of. It’s amazing to think there have been people up there orbiting the Earth since 2000. But we can do this, there’s someone up there orbiting the Earth all the time! And when you realise that, and appreciate what it takes to put them there and keep them alive, you begin to think that with enough determination anything must be possible.”   

He added: “I hope these Lectures help to show that science is the ultimate team effort. To send a human into space requires the combined imagination and creativity of thousands upon thousands of people, from a huge range of scientific and engineering disciplines, all working together.”

Kevin has close links with ESA and NASA’s human space exploration programmes – including with space life scientists and astronauts past and present – and over the past decade has worked alongside the British National Space Centre and UK Space Agency as a vocal campaigner for further British involvement in human space flight. Kevin is the founder and associate director of the Centre for Altitude Space and Extreme Environment Medicine at University College London (UCL) and is a regular contributor to NASA’s Human Space Exploration Programme; working with scientists investigating the effects on humans of long-term space exploration including looking at ways of creating artificial gravity on expeditions to Mars. As a practising NHS doctor, Kevin is a Consultant in Anaesthesia at UCLH and a flying emergency doctor with the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance Trust.

Filmed in front of a live audience in the iconic theatre at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the original science and engineering events for children were started by Michael Faraday in 1825 and have long been seen as a favourite British Christmas tradition. Since 1825, Lectures have been given by many distinguished scientists including Nobel Prize winners William and Lawrence Bragg, Sir David Attenborough, Carl Sagan, Lord George Porter and Dame Nancy Rothwell.

Gail Cardew, Professor of Science, Culture and Society at the Royal Institution said: “'The variety of space topics we could have chosen to cover in this year's CHRISTMAS LECTURES is almost as vast as space itself. But as we became more and more fascinated by Tim Peake's trip to the ISS later this year, we began to realise the sheer complexity and ingenuity involved not just in putting someone in space but keeping them up there alive! As soon as we nailed this topic, Kevin was the natural choice - with his broad knowledge and expertise in both medicine and space research.”

How to get involved

Tickets to the filming of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES will be made available by ballot to Members and Fellows of the Royal Institution and UK registered schools only. The online ballot will run from 3 September until 17 September. For information on the different levels of RI memberships available for all ages and to find out how to apply for tickets to this once in a lifetime show, please visit www.rigb.org

For more information on the entire series, please visit www.rigb.org/christmas-lectures

You can watch past CHRISTMAS LECTURES for free on the RI’s science video channel: www.richannel.org

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