In June 2008, ESA’s Education Office launched a new programme called ‘Fly Your Thesis! – An Astronaut Experience’. This exciting programme offered an opportunity for teams of university students to fly their experiments in microgravity by participating in a series of parabolic flights on an Airbus A300 Zero-G aircraft.
After the deadline for applications passed on 31 August, the ESA Education Office set up an Evaluation Board composed of experts from ELGRA (European Low Gravity research Association), the ESA Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration Directorate, and ESA Education. Out of the 29 teams that applied for the next phase of the programme, 16 were selected, involving a total of more than 50 students.
Dr. Javier Ventura-Traveset, Head of the Communication and Education Office of the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) and Chairman of the Evaluation Board explained: “We were really impressed by the very high level of the proposals received and the level of endorsement of the universities. Many European nationalities were represented in the teams and some teams even involved several countries.”
The 16 teams selected include students from the following countries: Germany (14), Italy (10), UK (10), Spain (7), Portugal (4), Norway (2), the Netherlands (2), Greece (2), Sweden (1) and Romania (1).
The selected teams
This list summarises the names of the selected teams, their university and the title of their proposed experiment:
- Boiling Jets, University of Pisa, Italy, Gravitational and Electric Force Fields Effects on Boiling Jet Heat Transfer;
- MuSpace, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Italy, Analysis Of Metabolic And Physical Behaviour Of Engineered Muscles In Gravity-Altered Environments;
- Sma, University of Naples Federico II, Italy, Shape Memory Alloys Adaptive Structure For Satellites Solar Panel;
- Complex, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway, The Effect Of Microgravity On Flow Birefringence In Samples Of Sodium Fluorohectorite Dispersed In Water;
- 3G20G, Technical University Darmstadt, Germany, Effect Of Microgravity And Flight-Related Stress On Radiosensitivity;
- Watervrees, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Determination Of The Water Repellency Mechanism For Soil Particles On The Basis Of Electrostatic Surface Forces;
- Acoubu's Team, Politechnic University of Barcelona, Spain, Multi-Bubble Sonoluminiscence in Microgravity;
- The Dust Side Of The Force, Westfälische Wilhelms University Münster, Germany, The GT-Effect, Planet Formation And Dust Storms On Mars;
- Team Kingston, Kingston University, United Kingdom, Chaotic Dripping In Reduced Gravity;
- MEGraMa, University of Bonn, Germany, MEGraMa (Magnetically Excited Granular Matter);
- Resuscitation Working Group, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation In Microgravity: The Effectiveness Of Different Adjunct Devices;
- Space Composite Busters, ESTACA, France - Linköping University, Sweden - Patras University, Greece, Polymeric Composite Processing and Repair;
- BioLEx, The Open University, United Kingdom, Enzyme assay in support of BioLEx Experiment (ESMO);
- ABCtr MicroG, Polytechnic University of Barcelona, Spain, ABC Transporters In Microgravity;
- AstEx, The Open University, United Kingdom, Simulating Asteroidal Regoliths: Implications for Geology and Sample Return;
- Physics_addicted, University of Porto, Portugal, New PDLC Materials Obtained From Dispersion Of LC Under Microgravity.
The selected teams are now expected to write a scientific proposal before the end of November. Teams will be invited to present their project to the Evaluation Board during a dedicated workshop to be held in December. Three or four teams will be selected to further develop and perform their experiment on an ESA Microgravity Research Campaign that will take place in Bordeaux, France, during the autumn of 2009. Some of the other teams may be offered the opportunity to perform their microgravity research at ESA ground-based facilities.
“We are really glad to see that many young scientists in Europe have a strong interest in microgravity research,” said Dr Ventura-Traveset. “This is already a success to us. We would like to congratulate the selected teams and wish them success in the next stage of selection. We would also like to thank all of the applicants for their participation and wish them good luck in their studies and future careers.”