A Swindon-based human spaceflight expert will be part of a new BBC2 show which launched last night, putting 12 contestants to the test to see whether they have what it takes to become an astronaut.

Libby Jackson, the Human Spaceflight and Microgravity Programme Manager at the UK Space Agency, based in Swindon’s Polaris House, has contributed her expertise to ensure that Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes? provides a realistic challenge for the aspiring spacemen and women.

Libby, 36, who will be making an appearance herself later in the series, manages the UK’s human spaceflight programme, as well as looking after the community of British researchers who are involved with the International Space Station.

She said of the programme: “I think it is superb, I think it is wonderful to see the British space industry getting such a prime-time slot.

“I was pleased to see that everyone seems to be so excited about it, and it is going to be fascinating, to see how the candidates progress over the next five weeks.”

The first episode saw the participants challenged to hold a helicopter in a steady position, repeat long lists of numbers backwards while exercising, and draw their own blood.

And Libby believes they make for a genuine representation of the selection process: “It is very realistic, the team of experts they have got is fantastic. They have worked with the producers of the programme to put together a very realistic set of tests.

“They are based on real tests, so they are good representations of the kind of things that people go through in astronaut selection.”

Libby first became interested in human space flight herself at 17, after undertaking a placement which included shadowing a flight director at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.

After completing her undergraduate degree at Imperial College, London, she studied for a Master’s in Astronautics and Space Engineering at Cranfield University.

She started her career in satellite operations, then moved to Munich as a flight controller and instructor of astronauts, before joining Europe’s Mission Control for seven years.

Libby has been based at the UK Space Agency for the last four years, where she managed the education outreach programme for astronaut Tim Peake’s mission, reaching over 1.6m children and one third of the UK’s schools in the process.

She said still feels the same enthusiasm for her career: “I love it. I have always gone to work and can never quite believe that I get to do something I enjoy so much – it is my passion.

“I was fascinated by space my whole life, motivated by the Apollo missions. While I was at university I realised that this was something I could do for a living.

“When I was at university, the UK didn’t support human space flight programmes - now I manage the human space flight programme for the UK.

“I still can’t believe I’m doing this.”