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Enabling & Support

N° 32–2016: Call for Media: Inviting the public into ESA’s technical heart

16 September 2016

Press are welcome to join the thousands of members of the general public set to attend ESA’s Open Day in the Netherlands on Sunday 2 October. Within a few short years, this event has become well established, allowing visitors to meet astronauts and space experts while exploring the Agency’s technical heart.

In place for more than half a century, the ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk is ESA’s single largest establishment, focused on developing technology, planning missions and testing satellites. Here, all ESA space missions are conceived and then guided through development.

ESA astronauts André Kuipers, Franco Malerba and Hans Schlegel will all be there on the day.

The historic Soyuz landing module that returned André to Earth from his 192-day stay on the International Space Station in 2012 will be exhibited in the Space Expo visitor centre, at a reduced entry price.

This will be the fifth full-scale Open Day at this unique site since 2012. More than 8500 visitors enjoyed the day last year, with Dutch nationals joined by many from further afield.

Attractions on show include the Test Centre – the largest satellite testing facility in Europe – and the Large Diameter Centrifuge for ‘hypergravity’ experiments, as well as the Erasmus human spaceflight and microgravity experimentation centre.

Key ESA programmes will be represented through a series of exhibits covering everything from the astronaut training uses of augmented reality to the best building materials to make a Moon village.

Public and private space players from the Netherlands will also be presenting their own space innovations in a dedicated NL Space [LINK: ] tent.

Also taking part will be hi-tech start-ups from the nearby Business Incubation Centre [LINK:].

The theme of this year’s Open Day is “Breath of Life”. It takes place the weekend after ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft ends its mission on a comet, concluding two years of sifting through dust and gases to understand the role of comets in the formation of our Solar System, including our own planet. 

In addition, ESA’s ExoMars orbiter will arrive at the Red Planet a little more than two weeks later, beginning a search for methane and associated rare gases in the thin alien atmosphere as evidence of either surviving Mars microbes or a different kind of ‘life’ – subsurface volcanic activity, which would mean the planet remains geologically active.

The engineering model of the Schiaparelli lander, due to touch down on Mars on 19 October, will be displayed.

Employing more than 1600 scientists and engineers – a total that has grown by almost a third in the last 10 years – plus around a thousand additional personnel, ESTEC is in the top tier of the country’s technology-focused knowledge institutes, surpassing all Dutch universities.

Noordwijk, the centre’s home town, is offering an entire month of space-related activities throughout October, celebrating it as the ‘Space-To-Be.’

All visitors must book to gain entry on the Open Day. To register, go to:


Further information:

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 20 are Member States of the EU.

ESA has established formal cooperation with seven other Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

Learn more about ESA at

For further information, please contact:

ESA Media Relations Office

Tel: +33 1 53 69 72 99