Astronauts to meet public at ESTEC’s Open Day on 6 October

Luca spacewalker
13 September 2013

Current ISS crewman Luca Parmitano will send a message from orbit for the start of this year’s ESTEC Open Day, while other astronauts will be there in person to share their experience of space.

ESA astronauts past and present will be making an appearance at this year’s Open Day of the Agency’s largest establishment, which takes place on Sunday 6 October as part of World Space Week.

These include Ulf Merbold – the very first ESA astronaut who flew on the first Shuttle-launched Spacelab mission, 30 years ago – and his fellow German Reinhold Ewald, veteran of a 1997 Soyuz trip to Mir. Dutch-born André Kuipers will also be present, along with NASA spacewalker Steven Smith and the first Italian astronaut Franco Malerba – appearing as part of a packed programme of events and attractions covering all of Europe’s varied activities in space.


ESTEC, the European Space Research and Technology Centre, is the technical heart of the Agency, nestled beside the sand dunes of Noordwijk, the Netherlands. It is opening its doors to the public as part of the Netherlands’ national Weekend of Science.

Visitors can tour through the sprawling site at their own pace, with plenty to see as they go.

A series of lectures and video films will give details of Agency projects throughout the day, along with exhibits along the route dedicated to landmark ESA missions including the Gaia galactic star mapper, Rosetta comet chaser, Planck’s measurement of ‘first light’ following the Big Bang, Europe’s largest-ever telecommunication satellite Alphasat, the Sentinel family of Earth-watching satellites and the Galileo satellite navigation constellation.

BepiColombo module in space simulator

Visitors should remember their cameras, because there will be plenty of photo opportunities – including the chance to visit ESTEC’s Test Centre to inspect an engineering model of ESA’s BepiColombo mission to Mercury. Constructed for space simulation testing, this BepiColombo is accurate in every detail to the actual spacecraft being launched in 2015.

ESTEC’s Erasmus Centre – ESA’s human spaceflight research facility – will host a 3D cinema space tour and opportunities to visit the Agency’s Automation & Planetary Robotics Laboratory (or ‘Mars Yard’), for testing robot rover designs as well as the Telerobotics and Haptics Laboratory, developing touch-controlled robotics technologies.

ESA experts will be on hand to answer questions from the public on all aspects of Europe’s work in space. ESTEC’s technical laboratories, investigating all aspects of engineering for the space environment, will have their own stands. Visitors will also get the chance to handle retrieved hardware that has previously flown in space, including samples from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Mars Yard

Local companies supported through ESA’s Business Incubation Centre Noordwijk will showcase how they have transformed novel space technologies into innovative businesses.

The European Space Education Resource Office, using space exploration to inspire young people about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, will also have an information stand, sharing how students and teachers alike can get involved in their work.

ESA’s many external partners will also have a presence during the day, including space companies such as Dutch Space from nearby Leiden – builders of the European Robotic Arm due to be installed on the ISS, and of the solar panels for ESA’s ATV space ferry as well as Galileo.

Model rocket launching at last year's event

The ESTEC Open Day is an event for all the family, with plenty for kids too. There will be an inflatable planetarium to explore, plus a bouncy castle and a mobile quiz and treasure hunt.

Children can build and launch their own rockets, have their photos taken with Star Wars stormtroopers, perform on-the-spot science experiments and join in a theatre group. ESTEC is partnering with Amsterdam’s Science Centre NEMO for the day.

ESTEC’s Space Shop will be open to buy space memorabilia, and ESTEC’s visitor centre Space Expo will also be open to the public on the day with a 50% discount for visitors.

Visitors can register through this link: Because we are obliged to limit the total number of visitors, to ensure a great experience for all who do attend, we urge you to book early to avoid disappointment.

Did you know that Noordwijk is 'the space to be' during the whole weekend of 5–6 October? Experience space – more information and activities can be found on

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