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Student Teams Selected To ‘Fly Their Theses!’

January 12, 2009

Four teams of postgraduate students have been selected to fly their experiments during a new ESA program called ‘Fly Your Thesis!’.

This exciting program, launched by the ESA Education Office in 2008, offers a rare opportunity for students to design, build, and eventually fly, a scientific experiment that requires an investigation to be performed in microgravity, as part of their Masters or PhD thesis. The chosen teams will participate in a series of parabolic flights on the Airbus A300 Zero-G aircraft.

During the final phase of the selection process, 16 student teams were asked to write a scientific proposal and make an oral presentation during a workshop held at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany, in early December 2008. 

At the end of this workshop, a jury composed of experts from the ESA Education Office, ESA’s Directorate of Human Spaceflight and ELGRA (European Low Gravity Research Association) made the selection of the four teams to be offered flight opportunities.

The selected teams are:

  • Complex, a team of four students from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in Trondheim, Norway. They will study the flow birefringence of a solution of clay particles in salty water, allowing them to have a deeper understanding of the self-organization of those small particles.
  • The Dust Side of the Force, a team of four German students from the Institute of Planetology at the University of Mnster, Germany. The experiment is about the greenhouse and thermophoretic effect, which can lift particles off the ground in low gravity conditions. This effect is thought to be important in planet formation and the formation of dust storms on Mars.
  • AstEx, a team of two British students from the Open University in the United Kingdom and the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis, France. Their experiment will investigate the behavior of granular material under shear stress, with the possibility of using their results in the design of future asteroid sample return missions.
  • ABCtr MicroG, a team of three students from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Spain. Their experiment will investigate the behavior of particular biological agents involved in the assimilation of drugs by the human body. The results could help to improve treatments in space.

“We were very pleased with the high quality of the proposals and the excellent work performed by all the participant teams,” said Javier Ventura-Traveset of ESA’s Education Office. “The collaboration between various ESA departments and ELGRA also proved to be excellent and very helpful to this new program.”

More news on this program and the evolution of the design of the selected teams will be posted on the ESA Education website in the coming months. The flights are scheduled to take place in autumn 2009.

Image Courtesy ESA

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