Live video call between SCK•CEN and ISS a success

Youngsters ‘up in the clouds’ with Samantha Cristoforetti

On Thursday 23 April, 100 pupils aged between 12 and 14 spent a unique day at SCK•CEN in Mol, attending the "food from spirulina event". The high point of the day, which revolved entirely around space travel and science, was a live video link with the International Space Station (ISS).

The event was the finale of a large-scale campaign run by ESA Education aimed at generating interest in space travel amongst young people. Pupils throughout Europe experimented with spirulina, a bacterium with a high nutritional value, which also produces oxygen; making it ideal for long space missions.

Throughout the morning, youngsters shared their experiences of the spirulina experiment they had conducted in class. They were also introduced to the space research carried out at SCK•CEN and briefly had the opportunity to be a ‘researcher’ at various set-ups involving microscopes and a real bioreactor with spirulina. Pupils were amazed and bombarded our experts with questions, clearly mesmerized by space travel.

Food from spirulina - Children at microscoop  Food from spirulina - baking cup cakes

After such an intense focus on science, it was high time for lunch: a sandwich, followed by a dessert consisting of cup cakes and waffles made with spirulina by the pupils themselves. They might have had a funny green colour, but they tasted delicious. Then by bus to the decommissioned BR3 reactor for the afternoon session, which was moderated to perfection by Lieven Scheire, himself totally fascinated by space. He was more than happy to be able to interview the French astronaut, Leopold Eyharts, on the stage.

Space to earth … the long-awaited moment: a live video link with the ISS, which was positioned over Australia at the time, was set up simultaneously from Greece, Sweden and Belgium. The link lasted for just 20 minutes, just long enough for five youngsters to ask the Italian astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, a question. She responded enthusiastically, floating in front of the webcam.

Food from spirulina - ISS in flight call  Food from spirulina - Award ceremony
           

Finally, the ESA awards were handed out. Because the number of participants in the food from spirulina event was limited, the ESA and its partners had organised a competition. The best schools were given the opportunity to attend the event and the top three received a prestigious ESA award, complete with an emblem that had been in space. In Belgium, the European School in Brussels came third and Campus Burchtstraat Herentals Kosh in second place. The Sint-Jozefinstituut in Kontich won with an entertaining and amusing video clip "All about that space".

It was an unforgettable day – not just for the pupils. Our scientists also visibly enjoyed themselves. Their enthusiastic input will no doubt encourage some youngsters to venture into science – and, who knows, even find their way into space. 

More info

Video "De schuur van Scheire" (VRT): Bellen tot buiten de dampkring (Making calls to outside the earth’s atmosphere)

Video "De Schuur van Scheire" (VRT): Lieven Scheire interviewt ex-astronaut Léopold Eyharts (Lieven Scheire interviews ex-astronaut Léopold Eyharts)

The Food from Spirulina-event in Belgium is organised by ESA and SCK•CEN, in collaboration with ESERO.