An astronaut who has travelled 23 million miles outside the earth’s atmosphere touched down at an Oxford primary school.

Dr Scott Parazynski, from Arkansas in the United States, spent an hour and a half with pupils from St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Headley Way, Headington.

The NASA astronaut has spent more than eight weeks in space and circled the earth more than 900 times aboard the space shuttles Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour.

He visited the school as he is a friend of one of the children’s parents.

After giving an assembly for the school’s 314 pupils, Dr Parazynski, pictured inset, on a spacewalk to make repairs at the International Space Station, took questions from Year 5 and Year 6 children.

He also put budding spaceman Sam Pollard, five, into a chair on its back to replicate the position of astronauts at launch.

Headteacher Sue Tomkys said: “It went brilliantly. He told the children to reach for their dreams and it was just great for them to know that if they work hard they can aspire to be someone like him. He was extremely impressed with the quality of questioning and the research the children had done.

“He was very giving with his time and the children were so excited. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience — I don’t think many of us will ever meet an astronaut again.”