This was Gennady Padalka’s first trip to the UK. A Cosmonaut added a little something to the occasion and we were as keen to meet him as was he to meet us. Whenever possible Ken Willoughby takes guest speakers to schools to inspire younger generations and Gennady was only too happy to oblige. A short ride out to Hull found a warm welcome at Newland School for Girls.and the hospitality afforded made a lasting impression on Gennady and pupils alike: it is safe to say that Space Lectures’ outreach program continues to go from strength to strength.
For the public event Gennady conducted his presentation from the back of the theatre: with all the lights off and Gennady speaking almost godlike through the PA “from above” the presentation was even more impressive than usual, while the extended Q&A with the lights kept all the photographers in the room happy. Very quickly Gennady’s personality and wicked sense of humour shone through. Amenable and affable in equal measure nothing we asked of Gennady was too much trouble.
As we wound up proceedings on Saturday evening Gennady turned to the team and said “Space Lectures is the best society in the UK. You will be forever in my heart.” Gennady’s English vocabulary might have come across as a little twee but there was no doubting the sincerity of the sentiment. He had thoroughly enjoyed his first visit to the UK and both the people and the place had clearly left an indelible impression on him and he has promised to return to the UK in the not too distant future. We’ll be waiting Gennady!