EXCITED schoolchildren were over the moon when they heard an astronaut would be visiting them.

And the 500 youngsters at Holly Lodge Primary School in Ash Vale were not to be disappointed.

Former NASA astronaut Dr James Bagian left them starry-eyed when he spoke to them about his career in the US space programme.

Dr Bagian, now an international patient safety expert, is in Britain as a guest of the new National Patient Safety Agency.

He is also scheduled to speak at a NHS conference in Harrogate.

Dr Bagian became an astronaut in 1980 and took part in the planning and provision of emergency medical and rescue support for six Shuttle flights.

In 1989 he took part in a mission that undertook a number of experiments in space, with the crew taking more than 3,000 photographs of Earth.

He said: "I was very pleased to drop in to the school to meet the pupils and I was asked a number of very searching questions. It was almost as challenging as space flight!"

Headteacher Shalini Norman said: "The school was very honoured to meet such an important guest.

"All the pupils enjoyed meeting Dr Bagian and hearing about his career and his international work on improving patient safety.

"The children will not forget his visit in a hurry. After all, it's not every day that a real-life astronaut drops in for a visit."