The Queen makes new virtual appearance and reacts to pictures of Mars by NASA’s Perseverance rover

By Heather Cichowski

The Queen marked British Science Week with a video call to British scientists, educators and schoolchildren. It was her first appearance since Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan's primetime interview with Oprah Winfrey on March 7 and followed her subsequent statement on March 9. British Science Week, which is actually 10 days, is a celebration of all things STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Her Majesty heard about some of the historic moments in the U.K. in science and technology, and she shared her personal connection to a few. The 94-year-old also found out about modern developments. For instance, the Queen was shown the latest updates from NASA’s 2020 Mars Perseverance rover by Professor Caroline Smith from the Natural History Museum. The main aim of the space mission is to look for evidence of past life on Mars.

The Queen was enthralled, like many of us who have seen photos of the mission. She remarked, "It’s fascinating to see the pictures of Mars – it’s unbelievable, really, to think one can actually see its surface!" The monarch also commented on "how rock-strewn" one area was.

Furthermore, Her Majesty was shown a photo of a recent British meteorite that landed near Gloucester about a week prior to the video call.

In another segment of the call, Dr. Maggie Aderin Pocock MBE, British space scientist and educator, and co-presenter of The Sky at Night, revealed that she was inspired to become a space scientist because of Russian cosmonaut and pilot Yuri Gagarin, who became the first human to travel into space. His capsule, Vostok 1, completed one orbit of Earth on April 12, 1961.

Her Majesty, as well as Prince Philip, met with Yuri after his historic journey at Buckingham Palace and the Queen shared some personal anecdotes about him during the call from March 10.

Russian cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin waves to the crowd outside the Soviet Embassy after he departs to have an informal lunch with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace in July 1961. Photo: © PA Images via Getty Images

"It was very interesting to meet him," recalled the monarch. "And I suppose being the first one, it was particularly fascinating."

Maggie replied, "It must have been very terrifying to be the first one, and not really knowing what was going to happen!"

"Well, yes – and if you could come back again. That’s very important!" quipped the monarch.

MORE: The Queen releases statement after Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry's interview with Oprah Winfrey

In another part to celebrate British Science Week, school children from Thomas Jones Primary School in London joined the call to discuss how they have adapted to remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic. The pupils also demonstrated their "rocket mice" experiment for the monarch. The experiment involved students squishing a bottle to launch a "rocket mouse" into the air.

"Very successful," remarked the doting grandmother.

"Splendid!" the Queen added after another demo.

Overall, the Queen described the event as being very interesting and she thanked everyone for what they were doing.

"Well it's been a very interesting morning, thank you very much indeed. And it’s wonderful work you're all doing," she stated. "It's a great pleasure to see you all."

In honour of the call, the Queen was presented with a set of Mars Perseverance rover face masks, which were sent from NASA headquarters to Windsor Castle, where the Queen is currently residing.

In February 1961, the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Edward and Princess Anne met with Colonel Frank Borman, one of the three American astronauts who circled the moon, and his wife Susan, at Buckingham Palace. Photo: © PA Images via Getty Images

Professor Smith asked that one of the masks be gifted to Prince Philip, because of his deep interest in space exploration. The Duke of Edinburgh is currently still in King Edward VII Hospital. He was transferred back to the London hospital last week after undergoing a "successful procedure for a pre-existing heart condition" at St. Bartholomew's Hospital.

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