It's school, but not as we know it: Abu Dhabi pupils soar to new astronaut world record

More than 900 Repton children take part in challenge to celebrate the UAE's achievements in space

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Enterprising pupils at an Abu Dhabi school have rocketed into the record books after assembling the world's biggest space crew.

Repton Abu Dhabi has boldly gone where no one has gone before by setting a Guinness world record for the largest gathering of people dressed as astronauts.

A total of 940 young learners aged between 7 and 12 swapped their uniforms for self-made spacesuits adorned with badges marking the country they hail from. The previous record was 716, which was set by a school in Northern Ireland earlier this year.

The intrepid children spent hours crafting their suits, using their favourite colours, and making personalised helmets.

The school made the record attempt to celebrate the UAE's rapid advances in the global space race, with Sultan Al Neyadi's six-month mission on the International Space Station next on the horizon in 2023.

No limit to ambition

Hundreds of pupils took part in the record-breaking event at Repton Abu Dhabi's Fry Campus on Reem Island. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

“We're very excited at having made a world record and it's a unique opportunity,” said Steve Lupton, principal at Repton Abu Dhabi.

“Our pupils and our entire Repton community are extremely proud and excited to be Guinness World Record holders.

“I hope this further expands their aspirations and self-belief of what they can achieve in their future.

“As a society, I feel we will be leaning on this generation of pupils to make significant advances in science and technology for the benefit of humankind and the environment and we need them to believe that they can achieve anything they put their mind to.”

He said breaking the record and teaching children about space was in line with the school’s focus on innovation and science and technology.

“We are always trying to inspire our pupils and promote and encourage them and to set ambitious targets for themselves.

“For us, it's also about building role models, particularly for our Emirati population as around 20 per cent of our pupils are Emirati.”

Setting sights on space

Riddhi Hoonjan, 9, a Year Five pupil at the school, said it was her dream to become an astronaut one day.

She said she was inspired to dream big by the late Kalpana Chawla, who was the first woman of Indian origin to go to space in 1997.

The Indian pupil said she had enjoyed making her suit.

“I'm most excited about being an astronaut. She (Kalpana Chawla) was from India and I feel she was so brave to go to space,” said Riddhi.

Scottish pupil Sebastian Sagar, 10, said he had drawn a keypad with buttons and numbers on his suit.

“I think it’s a lot of fun and it makes me feel quite special that I've managed to be part of this world record,” said Sebastian.

“My family helped me sew some bits on and I drew some other bits.

“I have a little badge on my suit with my name on it and my country's flag as well.”

Harvey Scott-Lupton, a Year Four pupil from Australia, said he had been sure to include his lucky number nine on his suit.

“Hazza Al Mansouri is my favourite astronaut,” he said.

The pupil said he enjoyed being a part of the record and designing his suit.

“I made my suit special by adding three buttons on my helmet, one red, one orange and one green,” he said.

UAE's growing space sector — in pictures

Updated: October 25, 2022, 10:48 AM