The European Space Agency (ESA) will be putting on a quite exceptional display at this year's fortieth Paris Air Show, which is being held from 10 to 20 June at Le Bourget airport, on the outskirts of Paris.
In a 1500 m2 pavilion, ESA will be presenting the range of Europe's space programmes around three main themes: Man, Earth and Space.
Man and his role in space activities, especially on missions in near Earth orbit, will be presented to the public in the most spectacular manner: in an octagonal aquarium, 6m in depth and containing 360m3 of water, astronauts will go through their routines in and around a structure representing the Columbus attached laboratory. There will be four windows, each 3m x 3m, to enable members of the public to observe this simulation of the work done by astronauts in orbit both within the laboratory and on space walks.
This aquarium is going to be the centrepiece of the ESA pavilion, in that it will not only be extremely spectacular but will give the public and the media an idea of the difficulties involved in the tasks that astronauts have to carry out under microgravity conditions.
It is going to be used during the Air Show for actual tests by the ESA astronaut team and afterwards in the course of development tests on orbital laboratories of the future. Study of the Earth itself is of course among the Agency's foremost interests, and ESA is helping to improve our knowledge of the terrestrial environment with such programmes as ERS, Meteosat and the future polar platform, which has now been given the name Envisat. This key aspect of ESA's space research is represented by full-scale mock-ups of Meteosat and ERS and, in relief on the front wall of the pavilion, an illustration of the Envisat polar platform, also full-scale.
The conquest and exploitation of Space are, as ever, ESA's primary activities, starting with Ariane, to which Europe owes its position on the launcher market. Ariane-5, whose maiden flight is scheduled for autumn 1995, will be represented by a 1:10 scale mock-up, a 1:4 scale half-fairing with two satellites installed, and a 12m x 7m fresco depicting the base of the launcher with the Vulcain engine and the lower ends of the boosters. There will also be a 1:10 scale mock-up of Ariane-4, Europe's current launcher.
Science, ESA's basic activity, will be represented by full-scale mock-ups of two programmes: Soho, whose mission will be permanent observation of the sun's surface, is scheduled for launch in 1995, and ISO, the infrared space observatory, in 1994.
The Agency's telecommunications interests will be represented by a mock-up of Artemis, a preoperational geostationary communication satellite, scheduled for launch on the second Ariane-5 flight, in spring 1996.
Finally, there will be various audiovisual presentations to give the public more information about ESA. Two holoramas, using original processes, will take members of the public on voyages between the Earth and space, and there will be opportunities for interactive discovery of new virtual reality simulation techniques.