Open Day at ESA’s technical centre attracts thousands of visitors
ESTEC, ESA’s technical heart, opened its doors to the public on Sunday, and the response was impressive. More than 8500 people visited over the course of the day – averaging one new visitor every 2.5 seconds.
The Open Day saw thousands of people strolling through the European Space Technology and Research Centre, ESTEC – ESA’s largest establishment based in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
Visitors made their way through ESTEC’s main building along its main corridor, around into the laboratory corridor and into the Test Centre, where spacecraft are tested before launch.
Attendees got a glimpse of the BepiColombo mission, due to fly to Mercury in 2015, and a shaker table used to recreate the earthquake-like vibration of a rocket launch.
This part of the Open Day proved extremely popular – with a 45-minute queue to enter during some the busiest times of day.
The tour route continued into the Erasmus centre for human spaceflight activities, concluding at the Escape staff recreation centre.
And as visitors walked they could inspect model spacecraft and space exhibits and talk to dozens of ESTEC volunteers about past, present and future ESA activities, along with representatives from ESA’s industrial partners and the Dutch National Space Office.
One special exhibition highlighted Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system ahead of the next launch due this Friday, beside a scale model of a Galileo satellite.
The Einstein and Newton conference rooms hosted a series of lectures and videos on space activities, while visitors also had the chance to handle hardware that had actually been in orbit – a deployment motor for Hubble’s solar arrays – and try operating a simulated version of Iris, Europe’s future space-based system for air traffic control.
At the conclusion of the tour, the Escape centre hosted activities for children, including building and launching cardboard rockets, shooting water rockets for older children and having astronaut-style photos taken.
There was also the opportunity to get ESA memorabilia in exchange for voluntary donations to a charity championed by ESA astronaut André Kuipers: the WE Foundation, seeking cures for rare metabolic diseases, raised €1943.75.
Then at lunchtime André himself dropped in, in front of an 800-strong crowd.
During his hour-long appearance, André talked about his trips to space and then fielded questions from children: “Do you actually have a phone aboard ISS? And can you order pizza?”
André laughed heartily: “Yes, there is a phone and basically you could call up and order pizza. But as to whether it gets to you afterwards…?”