September 30, 2022

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European space projects targeting young people

On December 7, 1972, the crew of Apollo 17 was 45 thousand kilometers from Earth, on their way to the moon. One of the crew members, most likely geological astronaut Harrison Schmidt, takes a color photo: he still doesn’t know it, but it will become a landmark photo and a turning point in the history of the planet.

For the first time, our cosmic house sees itself in the mirror and realizes what it is: blue marble, blue marble, as s baptized. It is a real revolution in our view of the world, which now seems to be dominated no longer by the terrestrial dimension we are familiar with, but by space that gives us a new perspective to explore.

Experience “Il Cielo itinerante”
Today, for the European Union, the discovery of the universe is, above all thanks to the work of the European Space Agency (ESA) and European funds available, a reality. We don’t stop getting used to the images that make history: In fact, the first color images of the James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most powerful telescope ever made, and which we’ve been working on for more than twenty years, date back to July 11.

Along with the snapshots, spectral data has been provided that can be downloaded and used for research purposes. And while the whole world was following this piece of history in newspapers or on social media, some kids had the opportunity to talk about it directly with ESA scientists.

The opportunity was provided by travel in the sky, a European project that aims to bring the sky where it does not reach, president and founder Ersilia Vodou told Linkiesta. An astrophysicist responsible for the ESA’s Equality Program, in 2021, Vodou founded an association with Alicia Mosca, Giovanna del Erba, and Julia Morando with the goal of bringing children and girls in educational poverty closer to the study of STEM subjects. Experience innovative training methods.

Scientific culture and, above all, the study of mathematics help to develop an inclusive society. explains Vodou, who came up with the idea to organize these interstellar tours after Suzanne Marabana’s travels.

We are in Nairobi, here Morabana and her husband founded “The Traveling Telescope”, a social enterprise dedicated since 2014 to promoting science and technology. The couple built a portable planetarium that lets kids experience the space in African villages up close.

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“In our country, even before the pandemic, girls and boys living in vulnerable contexts performed lower on average in math and science. The past two years – Ersilia Vodou continues – have increased these disparities. Precisely for this reason, the “Il Cielo itinerante” minibus will stop at places where it is necessary to invest in the education of young people and to highlight their future ».

This trip to all regions of Italy consists of workshops and guided observations of the sky using professional telescopes. For example, you can learn about life on the International Space Station by following the advice of astronauts who support the association. Among them is Samantha Cristoforetti, who accompanies children in orbit through tales, curiosities and interactive lessons in space.

Moving on to training, participating in workshops means building your own rocket or cooking a comet, to get closer to studying physics and chemistry while having fun. but this is not all. This year, in fact, the association set itself a goal of making Italy the European country in which more boys and girls saw heaven. “We have started a collaboration with Ipsos, which will provide us with methodological and analytical support to conduct research on the scientific perception of Italian adolescents,” concludes Ersilia Vaudo. “Only with the data in hand, we will be able to be assertive about the participation of new generations in stem matters. And thus in their integration into society.”

Approaching science through art
The National Institute of Nuclear Physics (Infn) and CERN in Geneva have developed another strategy to shorten the distance between youth and science. with the project Art and science across ItalyFunded by the European Union and Miur, Steam culture is promoted among high school students, combining the languages ​​of art and science.

says Linkista Pierluigi Paolucci, Infn member in Naples and founder of Art and Science. This initiative supported by European funds at the School begins with workshops conducted by experts from the worlds of science and the arts, and ends with a creative phase dedicated to creating artistic compositions inspired by the topics covered.

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An international jury then selects the best works to be shown during the traveling exhibition, Colors of the Flag. In addition to this award, there is also the possibility to participate in a master’s degree in Steam topics at CERN in Geneva. “More than half of those registered in our workshops are girls and in most cases they are contest winners – continues Pierluigi Paolucci – for us this data is particularly interesting, because it helps us to reduce the gender gap in this area. Steam . In fact, we realized over the It is time that opportunities overturn the statistics: it is important to work from the first years of training to prepare girls for a scientific career.”

space artist
Here comes an example of how art helps science become popular by Enrico MagnaniHe was a nuclear fusion researcher and now an artist in space. In a supernova group he represented stellar explosions through the principles of fluid dynamics. Magnani shares his technique with the boys of art and science that allows him, through jets of air and water, to move colors on surfaces, obtaining a result in line with astral birth. However, the Dark Matter series, also shown at CERN, has something more than that.

The inspiration comes from dark matter, which today is perhaps the most interesting topic in both particle physics and astrophysics, because it tells us many things about the fate of the universe. The paintings in this installation are appreciated in the dark: the audience in the exhibition actually holds an ultraviolet torch that enhances colors that cannot be seen in light using certain wavelengths.

Space rocket launch: an all-European challenge
To participate in the first university rocket launch competition in Europe, you have to travel to Portugal, where European missile challenge (Euroc) promoted by the Portuguese Space Agency with the support of the European Union.

The challenge is designed for engineering students who are invited to design, build and launch their own vehicles. From a broader perspective, the competition also in this case aims to encourage students to study science and develop technological skills. The race was born in 2020 after the cancellation of the Spaceport America Cup, and the six teams registered during today’s first edition are twenty-five. “It is an extra effort to promote space in the student community,” says Marta Gonçalves, head of the education sector at the Portuguese Space Agency, “However, it is not enough to promote this kind of initiative: it is necessary to democratize access to space, because only in this way can Our ecosystem has to go too far.”

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Among the participating groups there is also the Bme Aerospace team, a Hungarian team that in recent weeks has been designing and assembling a rocket capable of reaching an altitude of 9 thousand meters. The aim of the competition, which will be held next October in Portugal, is to pass the flight readiness and launch tests, during which the missile is declared ready for takeoff.

“We will spend 15,000 hours on our project to perfect it, but we are not tired: Yörük unites us as teammates and teammates. We work by imagining the moment when a rocket will take off from Earth and it would be incredible to share that moment with other European youth with the same passion as us,” says the Bme Aerospace men.

Once the launch is complete, there will be cheers, screams, and hugs. You will not feel like a competitor at that moment. “Defeats and victories for some for all. In science it works like this. Marta Gonçalves says such sentiments are worth the risk to continue the euro.”

Competitors say that in the seconds before each start, silence interrupts the frenzy. All eyes are on the launch pad and breathing coincides with the countdown and the magic word “ignition”. Then white smoke begins to appear: this is a good sign, but it is not enough. Hungarian engineers have concluded that the rocket lifts off to get the party started.

And perhaps the same is true of this new European era in space: the projects available to young people are certainly valid, but now we need to jump in and see what happens.