Last week another online training session organized by ESA Academy’s Training and Learning Programme concluded with over 30 University students who are now setting off on a year-long adventure of building, testing and performing experiments on gravity altering platforms.

A few weeks ago, 8 new teams were selected for some of ESA Academy’s hand-on programmes Drop-, Spin- and Fly Your Thesis! The university student teams’ first task after selection was to participate in a training week that would help them organize their big projects to achieve the best quality science for their research topics. This training week was delivered online for the first time. Despite the physical separation between the students and the trainers, the result was overwhelmingly positive

“The training week not only equipped us with all background needed for a successful experiment campaign, it also was a unique opportunity to meet fellow students, learn about ESA and current research in the field. Despite having to do the sessions online this year, it was interactive and fun and brought our team closer together. A great experience!” said PhD student from team MIND Gravity.

Jean-Francois Clervoy, ESA astronaut, bidding the students farewell with the Vulcan salute

Whilst some of the sessions had to be amended to suit the online format, all the important topics were still discussed, such as project management, risk mitigation, soft skills with regards to team building, defining requirements, verifying and validating experiment performance and communication with stakeholders. Former students were invited to share some lessons learned with respect to their past involvement in the programmes, providing valuable advice for the recently selected teams.

All the teams were also given the opportunity to speak to their assigned engineer from the facilities that operate the gravity altering platforms. Novespace, ZARM and ESA’s Large Diameter Centrifuge staff were all available to discuss the preliminary designs of the experiments and spent hours discussing the best solutions to ensure successful and safe experiment building.

These sessions were interspersed with lectures from prominent scientists and researchers in the field of gravity-related research briefly giving an overview of physical sciences as well as life sciences.

The students were also delivered an inspirational lecture from a Professor of Gravitational Astrophysics and Cosmology at the University of Glasgow who spoke about our knowledge of gravity from the times of Galileo Galilei to Newton and beyond with massive international projects such as LIGO and upcoming programmes such as ESA’s LISA mission.

An experienced ESA astronaut with three space flights also spoke to the students and took them through his adventures in space with amazing photographs and powerful messages of Earth being strong and resilient, but all life on it being fragile and susceptible.

Each team will encounter different challenges along their route as nothing is ever straightforward, but with the new knowledge bestowed upon them, the students will be able to design, build and test their hardware with greater confidence and success.

“I found the training week enjoyable and informative. The lectures and workshops helped me with all aspects of the research project, and I feel reassured not only of the support available, but also of my own ability to contribute to a successful campaign.” said a Bachelor student from team Noah’s Arc.

Curious to learn more about the selected teams and their projects? Check the links below:

Drop Your Thesis! selected teams!_2021

Fly Your Thesis! selected teams!_2021_teams_announced

Spin Your Thesis! selected teams!_2021

  • ESA also photo