Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)



11 November 2020, 7:00 pm–8:30 pm

Helen Sharman's spacesuit, image credit Wikipedia

Extracts from a new play by Nicola Baldwin , directed by Cat Robey, with Becky Simon, Peter Clements and Lynda Rooke. Followed by a Q&A. Registration will open in October

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Centre for Outer Space Studies

In 1991, chemist Helen Sharman became the first British astronaut when she joined the crew of Soyuz TM-12 to conduct experiments on Mir space station. 

This new play is set on Helen Sharman’s last day on Mir, interspersed with her remarkable journey to get there, after hearing the radio advert that would change her life (Astronaut wanted No experience necessary); gruelling selection process; trial by British reality TV and media; 18 months physical training and psychological testing in a Soviet cosmonaut camp. Dubbed ‘The Girl From Mars’ by British tabloids, Sharman was working at Mars Confectionary as an industrial chemist when she answered the call to space.  She launched on 18 May 1991, with cosmonauts Sergei Krikaley and Anatoly Artsebarsky, and returned to earth on 26 May with Viktor Afanasyey and Musa Manarov.  While Krikalev and Artsebarsky remained on Mir the second Russian revolution happened, the Soviet Union, and its government-run space programme ceased to exist. 

Just as current astronauts on the ISS have looked down upon a planet changed by a pandemic, TM-12: Woman From Mars is a story about adapting to change; personally, physically and globally; the chemistry of human life. 

Astronauts debate the ‘overview effect’ of looking back at our planet from space. On her last day on Mir, Helen Sharman conducted a live radio broadcast with British schoolchildren. This play imagines the impact of this day, and voyage, on her life. Since her return to Earth, Helen Sharman has directed her pioneering efforts towards education. In addition to numerous awards, she was recognised in the 2018 New Year Honours for services to Science and Technology Outreach. In recognition of Helen Sharman’s aim to encourage young children to study STEM, an online children’s drama will also be created, with supporting activities in Science, PSHE and Drama inspired by the play. 

Woman From Mars was first written as a 15 minute short for The Miniaturists, at Arcola in April 2019. The full draft has been supported by an MGCfutures bursary and Hospitalfield Interdisciplinary Residency, for a production in 2021, the 30th anniversary of TM-12.

Nicola Baldwin was an inaugural UCL Creative Fellow (2019-2020) at Urban Lab, and is a Visiting Fellow at IAS this year. 

The event will run on Microsoft Teams. Registration will close at 7pm on 10th November. We will then send an event link to everyone who has registered, to the email given during registration. Please check your emails before the event to log on.  

All attendees are required to mute themselves and turn off their video. If you wish to ask a question, either e-mail it in before the event or write it in the chat function which will be monitored by the chair on the night. Please familiarise yourself with our Virtual Events Code of Conduct.

Register to take part at https://coss-womanfrommars.eventbrite.co.uk


This event has been organised by the Centre for Outer Space Studies, part of the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies.