Schools in Europe actively participated in the educational project "Spaceship Earth", part of ESA astronaut André Kuipers’
PromISSe mission. The initiative, conceptualized by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Netherlands Space Office (NSO)
also involved a unique collaboration of a team including NEMO Science Centre (Amsterdam, NL), Space Expo (Noordwijk, NL),World
Wildlife Fund (WWF), the University of Amsterdam and the Vu-University of Amsterdam.
André Kuipers launched from
Baikonur to the ISS on 21 December 2011. By asking students aged 10-14 to ‘Join my mission’, he invited them to participate
in "Spaceship Earth" or "Ruimteschip Aarde" (the Dutch version of "Spaceship Earth" specially targeting Dutch primary schools).
Pupils were directly involved in this mission by following lessons developed by ESA and Science Center NEMO for the three
Spaceship Earth themes: ‘Life’, ‘Biodiversity’ and ‘Weather and Climate’. Additionally the Spaceship Earth programme was represented
in a longstanding exhibition in Space Expo, ESA’s Teacher Summer Workshop and the ESA Space Camp.
A major part of
Spaceship Earth project allowed students to compare results of experiments in the classroom with the results carried out by
André in microgravity. To fulfil this objective, space hardware and ground demonstration kits were developed and delivered
free of charge to schools that signed up to participate in the experiment. These kits enabled students to appreciate the role
of gravity in the phenomena of convection and foam formation/stability. In addition, a direct interaction between the astronaut
and the children during an inflight call allowed for a more direct contact to discuss the results both sets of experiments
achieved - truly bringing the classroom into space.
The NSO further tailored their Ruimteschip Aarde national programme
by involving Dutch Schooltv and by maintaining a dedicated project website, where André challenged Dutch children with three
specific problem solving tasks. The children submitted their solutions via short video clip or photo-shoot after which André
selected the winners whilst in space. The teams with the best solution won a radio contact (ARISS) with the astronaut.
goals of the project were to make pupils, teachers and those in their social environment, aware of the conditions necessary
for life and the systems that support these, both on Earth and the ISS. Furthermore the project was a tool to enhance interest
in science and technology, bring attention to the importance of space exploration as well as highlight the beauty and vulnerability
of planet Earth.