Children fired up to meet real rocket men

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SPACE may be the final frontier – but there was no boundary to children's creativity to show how much they wanted to meet some real-life astronauts.

The crew of the space shuttle Atlantis will arrive in Portsmouth on Sunday, the first leg of a Nasa European tour.

As part of Space Month, The News and Portsmouth Grammar School offered a very special prize for a school class – the chance to go onto the pitch at Fratton Park to meet the rocket men for a big showstopper while thousands of children watch from the stands.

The race was on for children to show us their creativity and how much they wanted to meet the astronauts by making something space-themed. We were impressed – so much so that it was very difficult to choose between the entries.

But the deserving winners were the Otters class from Padnell Infant School in Cowplain.

They built a seven-foot high space shuttle, painted aliens for a display, composed a spaceman song and even baked a rocketshaped cake.

But the highlight was their five-minute film called Race to the Moon, complete with astronauts, blue-haired aliens, special effects and a little bit of David Bowie's Space Oddity.

Panos Ioannou, seven, came up with the story for the film after doing some online research on space and Atlantis.

He said: 'I want to be an astronaut when I grow up. I can't wait to meet them and ask for their autographs.'

Jack Bover, also seven, said: 'I'm really excited. I like drawing aliens when I get home from school. I'm going to ask them if they've ever met an alien.'

Headteacher Michelle Petzer said: 'It's an extraordinary opportunity to meet people who have gone to space.

'Every child dreams of space, aliens and astronauts. Having the chance to meet people who have left Earth is fantastic. It's out of this world.'

But it wasn't just the pupils at Padnell Infants who had made an impression on the judges.

The panel were enthused about the silver-foiled spaceship made by 6F class at St Jude's CofE Primary School in Old Portsmouth and the excellent film Atlantis Crew Save the Day by pupil Elliott Rodel.

Pupils at Horndean Technology College built a large rocket shaped board filled with their poems and letters about why they'd want to meet the Atlantis crew.

And the pupils of Rowner Infant School in Gosport would have taken the prize for the most convincing astronaut suits in their film Lost in Space complete with willow-framed space shuttle.

We were so impressed with all thei rwork,that these classes have been invited to sit in the stands for the Fratton Park event.