Experience the day of an astronaut
Last Tuesday, 6 October 2009, was a red letter day for space education in Belgium. Almost 300 primary school children came together in Brussels for a special space event which included a live link to ESA astronaut Frank De Winne on board the International Space Station (ISS).
130 from Dutch-speaking schools, 140 from French-speaking schools and 20 from German-speaking schools were selected to attend, based upon their entries in region wide competitions, including one organised by UNICEF Belgium.
The exciting event was designed to use the theme of space to make children and students more enthusiastic about science. The programme began by watching films that summarised the ESA OasISS mission and the typical day of an astronaut on board the ISS. The students then attended scientific workshops in which they were able to make a water and air rocket; discover about centrifugal force and orbits, and take part in a lesson from the Reis door de Ruimte educational resource.*
During the lunch break, the students were invited to participate in a competition to produce a drawing depicting the history of space exploration. The prize for the winning class was a visit to the Planetarium of Brussels.
The afternoon began with a 3-D show which enabled the pupils to become familiar with the size and layout of the huge space station. This was followed by a lesson about the importance of fresh water by the Belgian arctic explorer, Dixie Dansercoer.
However, the moment everyone had been waiting for was a live link with the ISS, during which Frank De Winne conducted an experiment to illustrate the importance of water on board the Station. After the astronaut announced that Benedetto Lui (14) from Italy had won the ESA/UNICEF water quiz, five students were able to ask him questions before the ISS swept out of communication range.
Also attending the afternoon session were Education Minister Paasch from the German-speaking Community, as well as representatives from the Belgian federal and regional governments.
The ISS Day with its educational program and ISS link were made possible through extensive collaboration with the ESA Directorate of Human Spaceflight.
The event was organised by the European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO) in Brussels, in collaboration with the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (which includes the Belgian delegation to ESA) and the ministries of education of the Flemish Region, the French-speaking Community and the German-speaking Community in Belgium.
The ESERO office also liaised with the Vrije Univeristeit Brussel and the Université Libre de Bruxelles, the venue for the event.
The ISS Day was one of several educational activities planned during Frank De Winne’s ongoing six-month OasISS mission on the Station. The Belgian astronaut has been on the ISS since 29 May. He is currently serving as a flight engineer for Expedition 20 and will soon take over as commander for Expedition 21.
The Belgian ESERO, which is located in the Planetarium of the Royal Observatory of Belgium, Brussels, has been supporting teachers and students since its opening on 27 April 2007.
* The Reis door de Ruimte educational resource was produced within the ESERO project for the Netherlands. More information on this resource can be found here.