About LAS

LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally. 

Established in 2005 as LearningAge Solutions, we work with some of the best known organisations in the world to boost their performance through the innovative use of learning technologies. Working in partnership with our customers, we draw on proven principles from human behaviour, how people learn and how the brain works to create impactful digital learning solutions with real return on investment.

About Rob Hubbard

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Rob is a designer through and through who is fascinated by how we learn,  what we remember and why we pay attention to certain things. He is a huge enthusiast of all that technology can offer to enhance learning and has completed a huge variety of projects in his 14 year career. 

He is the editor and co-author of The Really Useful eLearning Instruction Manual published by Wiley and featuring contributions from the brightest and best elearning minds on both sides of the Atlantic.

Learning at the frontier

by Rob Hubbard
Posted 31 January 2020

In December 2019 it was my great privilege to work with the European Astronaut Centre. This is where all astronauts heading to the International Space Station (ISS) get trained before heading up into orbit, a process that takes around two years. I was working with the trainers to help them make better use of digital learning in their work. These are VERY bright people; scientists and astro-physicists many of whom are ground support staff for the ISS too. When people say something isn't rocket science, in this case it was. Now my background is engineering and I've been a life-long 'hard' sci-fi geek (hard sci-fi isn't Star Wars; it uses fiction to explore physics, philosophy and ethics), so this was basically my ideal gig : ) 

Off I flew to Cologne, Germany where the European Astronaut Centre is based. It’s a big industrial site next to the airport, with bits of space hardware here and there. The workshop started well. The group were from diverse backgrounds and with a range of experience but all super smart.

During the coffee break in the workshop they asked if I wanted to join a video call with Luca, one of the astronauts. I thought it would be pretty cool to talk to an astronaut, maybe he was working from home or at another site. It turned out he was on the ISS and it was Luca Parmitano the Station Commander doing a live video Q&A with the team at the EAC. In the background behind Luca I could see the earth rotating through the viewport. 

Other highlights included learning how the astronauts changed having been into space. Something that many comment on is how fragile the earth looks - the atmosphere is thinner than the peel on an apple and looking away from Earth all you see is blackness and distant stars. Our planet is precious. Looking closer at the Earth you see no country borders or divisions - you see it as a whole. EAC is funded by the European Space Agency - it's a real collaborative effort. Everyone works together and over 15 different languages are spoken by people from more than 40 countries. 

On the second day before I flew home I was treated to a tour of the facility. I saw the pool where the astronauts learn to space-walk with one being trained, the equipment racks they use on ISS to complete all manner of experiments, a simulation room used to train ground crew in locations around the world with a simulation underway, a control room where I could see live feeds from the external cameras on the ISS (I watched the Sahara pass by) and physical simulators for the Columbus science module and practicing docking.  
What struck me were the incredible feats humans can achieve when we work together. Country politics and geo-political pressures seemed nonsensical against the backdrop of what these people are achieving. The next aim is to have human habitation either on or near the moon and it seems likely now that in my lifetime the human race will become an inter-planetary species. It was interesting to hear that there is debate around whether we should. Looking at the mess we've made of our planet and the rate at which we're filling near space with junk, it seems likely that we'll end up doing the same on a grander scale. We are indeed masters at pooping on our own doorstep. 

It was a fascinating visit; one that made me think a lot about our place in the cosmos and a career highlight I will always remember.

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