Successful conclusion to 2008 Alpbach Summer School

This years' theme
21 August 2008

This year’s Summer School in Alpbach results in 4 innovative projects presented by 58 students.

At the end of July, 58 young science and engineering students from all over Europe converged on a small village in the Austrian Alps for the 32nd Alpbach Summer School. The theme of the 2008 event was "Sample Return from Moon, Asteroids and Comets". The topic covered the scientific arguments for acquiring material for analysis in Earth-based laboratories, as well as the technical challenges and likely costs of developing the space vehicles and instruments that would carry out the sample return missions. About 20 lectures have covered all the aspects of sample return missions with emphasis on the scientific cases of the selected targets, the rationale for returning samples on the Earth, the laboratories techniques, the results of already returned samples and the technical challenges of the associated mission and space vehicles.

Workshop in Alpbach

A key element of the Summer School was the workshop, which occupied more than 50% of the time. The students were divided into four teams. Each team was asked to select a set of scientific objectives before setting out to design its own scientific space mission that would return samples from a particular asteroid, comet or the Moon. Their mission proposal had to consider not only the scientific case and the associated instrumentation (on-board and on the Earth) but also the mission design (orbits), particularly critical for a return mission, the launcher, the space segment design, the main sub-systems and finally a cost estimate.

The teams were supported by 12 tutors who offered expertise in the scientific and technical aspects of sample return missions and space mission design. Many of the lecturers were also present throughout the duration of the Summer School and available to assist the teams with the definition of the missions.

The results of each project were presented to an expert review panel during the final day of the workshop. The innovative projects included:

  • IT-Rocks. International Team - Return of Comet Key Samples
    This was a proposed sample return mission to comet 88P/Howell.
  • SAMOSA. Study of Active Mainbelt Object through Sample Acquisition
    This was a mission to return a sample from a comet that resides in the main asteroid belt.
  • FR3OG-ASM. Asteroid Sample Mission: Rendezvous Remote Sensing Return
    This was a dual rendezvous mission to two different types of near-Earth asteroid.
  • PALISA. Sample Return Mission to M-type asteroid (216) Kleopatra
    This mission was designed to land on and sample a metallic asteroid, a fragment of the core of a large asteroid that was once molten.

The jury of experts evaluated each mission concept according to the scientific case, the technical feasibility, the innovative nature and competitiveness, as well as the quality of the presentation, final report and responses to questions from experts. The jury, led by the Head of the Aeronautics and Space Agency of FFG, Harald Posch, congratulated the Summer School students on their outstanding work.

“On behalf of Harald Posch and Johannes Ortner, our Summer School Director, let me point out how proud we are about what the students achieved during these 10 days in Alpbach,” said Michaela Gitsch, the Summer School coordinator. “They were a great group!”

At the end of the Summer School, Bernard Foing of ESA, one of the Alpbach tutors, offered each of the student teams the opportunity to present their project as a poster and short oral presentation during the Space Exploration Symposium of the International Astronautical Congress in Glasgow on 2-3 October, and at a planetary workshop organised at ESA-ESTEC in the Netherlands on 9-10 October.

Held annually since 1975, the Alpbach Summer School is renowned for providing in-depth teaching on aspects of space science and space technology, with the aim of advancing the training and working experience of European graduates, post-graduate students, young scientists and engineers.

The Alpbach Summer School 2008 is organised by the Aeronautics and Space Agency of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG). It is co-sponsored by ESA and the national space authorities of its Member and Co-operating States, with the support of the International Space Science Institute and Austrospace.

Planning is already under way for the 33rd Alpbach Summer School, to be held from July 21-30, 2009, which will be dedicated to “Exoplanets (Search for Earth like planets and their atmosphere)”. An announcement for student applications will be published in early January 2009.

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