Ready, steady and … fit for space!
An energetic countdown yelled by 300 students today marked the official launch of ‘Mission X’. Some 4000 pupils around the world are embarking on a unique mission to train like an astronaut and boost their fitness.
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, currently living on the International Space Station, declared the mission officially under way in a video addressed to the worldwide participants.
The message of the ‘Mission X’ Ambassador was received with enthusiasm by the pupils taking part in the event at Space Expo, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
“I will be in space doing my two hours of daily exercise to stay fit, and you will be doing it along with me in order to learn how to climb a mountain on Mars or how to jump on the Moon as a space explorer,” said Paolo.
The students, aged 8–12 years, immediately started their training under the watchful eye of the triple Olympic swimming champion Pieter van den Hoogenband, who is supporting an initiative that includes up to 20 different physical exercises.
During this first training mission, they practised scientific reasoning and teamwork while participating in hands-on activities in four different ‘stations’.
Modules like Do a Spacewalk or Base Station Walkback are among the tasks they will have to perform for the next two months.
A planetary competition
‘Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut’ is an international pilot project led by ESA and NASA involving nine different countries.
In Germany, 300 pupils will visit the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne to carry out some experiments on gravity, biology and medicine.
Students from Italy, the UK and France are already members of this global community of promising space explorers. Pupils from the US, Austria, Colombia and Spain are getting ready for mission launch in the coming weeks.
Japan, as an observer, did not restrict the age of participants and kids from 3 years old started the training with easier exercises watched by their parents.
For up to two months, Mission X teams will perform a number of physical exercises and classroom lessons and will have scores awarded after each.
As an open competition, everyone can become involved in the programme by tracking their progress and comparing it with other teams in different countries.
Astronauts are good role models for explaining the importance of physical activity and nutrition to youngsters. During the event in the Netherlands, Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang pointed out how taking care of your body must be an integral part of your life.
“It is so important to exercise and eat healthily while you are young. And you can learn a lot about yourself if you try to improve your spatial awareness, balance and endurance, for example,” explained Christer.
His space colleague Paolo Nespoli will be speaking to students live from the Station on 24 March, when they will have the opportunity to share their results.
At the end of Mission X in April, the winning class for each country will be announced.