A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
On our way to the building hosting Andy’s office, we passed through a long and wide hallway serving as an exhibition space for the past and ongoing projects of ESA. This is not to be confused with the Space Expo, a permanent museum dedicated to space just a bust stop away from ESTEC.
Walking through the hallway, I felt somehow overwhelmed by the many objects and posters around me; I was undecided over where to fix my gaze upon, as everything seemed to demand the attention of my wide amazed eyes. Posters and paintings were portraying the faces of the many astronauts who set foot on the International Space Station, such as the Italian Samantha Cristoforetti and the Dutch physician André Kuipers.
On one side of the hallway, a transparent case contained faithful miniatures of the two ESA launchers, the French Ariane-5 and the Italian Vega. Billboards were instead displaying promotional messages in favour of ESA: “We all benefit from space every day” one of them reads, “at the cost of one cinema ticket for each of us per year”. Indeed, many consider such agencies and programmes a waste of public money. However, things that many take for granted, like the GPS, only exist thanks to the investments made in this sector.
On the other side further on the hallway were lying bigger replicas of satellites, space modules and telescopes. I saw a Sentinel-2 satellite developed for the Copernicus Earth Observation programme, aimed at capturing high resolution imagery of our planet’s surface; next to it, a replica of the new James Webb telescope drew my attention because of its curious and aesthetically pleasing design.
After walking for a few dozen metres outside, we reached Andy’s building. He told me that it was originally projected for other purposes and the large space at its centre was therefore transformed into an auditorium where bigger replicas were exposed. Indeed, a 1:10 scale replica of the International Space Station was hanging from the ceiling, while on one side huge copies of the Arian and Vega rockets were standing.
I was then shown a precise replica, also with regards to dimensions, of the Columbus space module. Columbus is the ESA-made science laboratory of the International Space Station; it is Europe’s largest single contribution to the project.
Unfortunately, time was running out as Andy had to get back to work, so he accompanied me to the visitors’ reception at the entrance. Even if I would have liked to spend more time there, I am grateful for the opportunity that was presented to me to visit this European high-tech jewel.
What do you think of space exploration? Are you also passionate about space? Let me know in the comments!