European Students Attend NASA Academy
As part of its ongoing remit to promote science and technology education in Europe and in the context of ESA's ongoing cooperation with NASA, ESA sponsored two outstanding university students to attend the prestigious NASA Academy internship programme during the summer of 2008.
Following the initiative of the International Space Education Board (ISEB), established by the world’s major space agencies, ESA invited students from its Member States and Co-operating States to apply for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. After sifting through more than 80 applications, the lucky winners were eventually chosen to participate in the 10-week-long programme, held in the United States from June to August.
Last week, the two ESA sponsored students were invited to visit the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), the largest site and the technical heart of ESA, where they reported on their experience and visited the Test Facilities.
Florent Nobelen, currently in his third year of studies at SUPAERO – ISAE (French Graduate School of Aerospace Engineering) in Toulouse, was based at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Centre in Maryland during the summer. Much of his internship revolved around integration and testing of the near-infrared spectrometer that is being developed for the NASA-ESA James Webb Space Telescope – the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.
"There were 19 students in my group, including two from France and one from Japan," explained Florent. "Most of my time was spent with project management and providing help for the test programme. However, I also went to the NASA Manned Spaceflight Centre in Houston and visited lots of private companies. Every Tuesday and Thursday night, a professional from NASA or from industry came to talk to us and answer our questions."
"The most important thing was to meet a lot of professionals and talk to the other students. There was a lot of stress on the importance of networking. But what I liked most was that we all worked together as a team. It was a very professional and social atmosphere."
In November, Florent will join ESA's European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) in Spain through ESA's internship programme.
Romanian Adrian Albert, currently a physics and computer science graduate student at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, was based at Marshall Spaceflight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, during the Academy. Working in the science centre, he conducted research into the analysis of lightning data received from numerous ground sensors.
"There were 15 students in my group, but I was the only one from outside the United States," said Adrian. "Although I was based in Huntsville, I was fortunate enough to visit four other NASA centres in California, Texas and Florida."
"The most important thing for me was to see American space research at first hand. We learned how the industry works and the importance of collaboration with international partners. Networking and communicating with other people were also a very important part of the Academy, and we were able to meet a lot of project managers and other leading professionals from industry and NASA."
Building upon their experiences at the NASA Academy, both Florent and Adrian are keen to complete their studies and then pursue a career in space. They are also most appreciative of being given the opportunity to participate in this trans-Atlantic adventure.
"I would like to thank ESA for making possible this exciting opportunity," said Florent. "It was an amazing experience and I was able to learn so many things."
"I think this programme should be advertised and publicised as much as possible," added Adrian. "I’m sure a lot of students would be interested in taking part, since it offers a great way to learn about what happens on the other side of the ocean."
The ESA Education office provided full sponsorship for both students, as part of an agreement by the International Space Education Board for students from many nations to participate in the annual NASA Academies. A similar opportunity is expected to be available next year, and full details of how to apply will be posted on the ESA Education web site in late 2008 or early 2009.
The NASA Academy is an intensive summer research programme conducted each year in four of the NASA centres: Ames Research Centre, Glenn Research Centre, Goddard Space Flight Centre and Marshall Space Flight Centre. Designed for undergraduate and graduate students with an interest in aerospace engineering and space sciences, the Academy includes participation in various cutting-edge NASA research projects.