Feel the Beat: Open Day at ESA’s Technical Heart

Linda CarretteLinda Carrette
  10 October 2016

Last week was quite an exciting week for space. In addition to comet-chasing Rosetta wrapping up her extraordinary mission by landing on 67P (read all about that here), the European Space Agency’s Technology centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands opened its doors to the public for its annual Open Day. EJR-Quartz was amongst those on hand, interacting with audiences, answering questions, and streaming/documenting the day’s many talks on social media.

Visitors were welcomed by Franco Ongaro, Head of ESTEC, along with ESA astronauts André Kuipers, Thomas Reiter, Hans Schlegel and Franco Malerba. The welcome was streamed LIVE on Facebook courtesy of Technology editor Sean Blair, who could be spotted zipping around ESTEC with his headset and phone recording other live sessions for Facebook and snapping photos/tweeting. Prior to the Open Day, Sean was busy promoting the event with web articles, even more tweets, and videos.

The AIM mission, ESA’s candidate mission to an asteroid that is up for Ministerial Council approval this December, got a lot of attention at the Open Day. We have been working on the AIM website since its inception and have also been involved in the creation of a number of videos for the project, including a virtual reality show, which was released on the Open Day. Visitors were amazed to see the 3D full-dome version of an animation that visualises the mission as it will proceed in a few years’ time. To engage the smallest of visitors, the AIM team had been working together with the University of Amsterdam to create an interactive, fun and educational game for tablets and phones. The game was well received by the youngsters, with some of them coming back to the AIM stand to proudly show which level they had reached whilst touring the rest of the site.

More fun for children was had at ESTEC’s Escape Centre with music, science and live astronauts. ESA’s Education office coordinated many of the activities. Our Didactics Expert Fatima Pinto engaged kids and parents in the LEGO Mindstorms as well as the rocket science session, showing participants how to make and launch one out of paper. Web and graphic designer Anca Zinculescu manned the ESA Education information stand, providing parents, youngsters, and teachers information on ESA Education programmes. Anca also covered the event on social media.

In the E-corridor of the ESTEC main building visitors learned about ESA’s environment programme and Earth observation missions in an exhibition set up by EO editor Honora Rider.

It was a splendid day with over 8700 visitors ranging from space enthusiasts, who travelled especially for the day, to local residents who have always wanted to know what goes on behind those gates. One thing is certain, it was a packed day for all involved and a very satisfying one in terms of response from the public.