Five decades to the day after the inauguration of ESOC, ESA's European Space Operations Centre, in Darmstadt on 8 September 1967, the centre hosted a gala open-door event dubbed 'Long Night of the Stars.' That evening, some 5000 enthusiastic visitors arrived at ESOC, ready for a fantastic night of space exploration and to take part in Darmstadt's best-ever space-themed street party. Visitors arrived from as near as the city of Darmstadt itself and as far away as Italy, and from many points in between.
Those lucky enough to have one of the long-sold-out entry tickets could enter the site and follow a carefully planned route to see some of the most critical mission control facilities, including the Main Control Room, several of the individual control rooms for missions like the Sentinels, Gaia and Cryosat, and dedicated facilities for space debris, ground stations and flight dynamics.
Volunteer experts from ESA were stationed throughout, providing explanations and answering questions on what goes on 'behind the glass' during actual operations.
One highlight was the life-size engineering replica of the famous Rosetta satellite, which was specially illuminated and staffed by the engineers who had flown the real Rosetta 800 million km away.
After the site tours, visitors could sit in on numerous expert presentations on a wide range of topics central to ESOC's role and activities within ESA, including how to conduct a launch campaign, operational alerting for space debris, how to address risks posed by solar activity and much more.
Outside, a number of hands-on activities and technology displays were hosted by teams from ESOC and ESA's European Astronaut Centre (how to control a lunar rover) and by partners from DFKI, the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (rovers on Mars), the Polytechnic Institute of Milan's School of Design (connecting living in space with living on Earth) and from the AAW Darmstadt amateur astronomer society.
More information: Happy birthday ESOC