Manchester Space Programme, based in Manchester, was launched as part of the UK Space Agency’s Space For All initiative in 2013 to help the community develop the facilities and know-how to explore space.

Manchester Space Programme meet to discuss space and space exploration every Thursday at Manchester Digital Laboratory.

Rather than undertake one space mission and end the programme, Manchester Space Programme’s aim was to start a series of launches which would capture the interest and imaginations of not only space enthusiasts but academics and the hearts and minds of the general public.

The first phase of the programme exceeded expectations by developing and launching numerous successful high-altitude balloon experiments. They have also opened access to launches for schools and community groups with the development of products that promote access to space for all. There are no restrictions to attendees and a scientific background is not a prerequisite to joining the programme. One of Manchester Space Programme’s regular members for high-altitude launches is only 9 years old and the oldest is nearly 60.

The group have found that offering awareness events, seminars and workshops practically centred on space and near space exploration, using current technologies that were previously unavailable to members of the general public, has increased understanding, learning and enthusiasm for self-engagement in scientific areas previously closed to the community.

Group member Anthony Fawl said: “Large government organisations or corporate and academic institutions seem to be the only way through which people can access space and near-space research and expertise. I want to explore space and be part of something that my family and friends can join in.”