On Thursday September 28, the 35 winners of the "Astronaut for a day" competition, organized by the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) in collaboration with the Ministry of the Economy, the Ministry of National Education, Children and Youth and the Ministry of Sport, took part in a parabolic flight from Luxembourg, the final stage of the competition. They flew in the company of the Minister for the Economy, Franz Fayot.
A parabolic flight is an airplane flight that creates weightlessness for around twenty seconds. During a parabolic flight, also known as a "zero-gravity flight", pilots perform a series of maneuvers to recreate a state of weightlessness on board. For this first parabolic flight from Luxembourg, operated with an Airbus A310 by Novespace, 3 types of parabolas were performed: 1 with Martian gravity, 2 with lunar gravity and 12 with zero gravity.
At the end of the flight, which lasted around two hours, the participants, including Minister Franz Fayot, were welcomed on the airport tarmac by HRH the Grand Duke, the Minister for Sport, Georges Engel, the Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), Josef Aschbacher, and the Director of Luxembourg's space agency LSA, Marc Serres. The young people were then reunited with their parents and teachers for a "welcome back" lunch at the airport.
Announced on July 1st, 2023, the winners of the competition are 35 young people aged between 13 and 19 attending school in Luxembourg, who were selected from 221 applicants after a number of tests. At the end of the competition, 30 of them were designated "titular" astronauts for the day, and 5 others "reserve astronauts". This group of 35 young people were thus able to enjoy this unique experience, alongside the Minister of the Economy.
The "Astronaut for a Day" competition
Aimed at promoting the space sector and its many scientific and technical professions to young people, the competition was inspired by the astronaut selection procedure used by space agencies around the world. Held between April and July 2023, the various stages of the competition included logic and comprehension tests, as well as physical aptitude checks.
The 35 young people selected will act as space ambassadors throughout the 2023/2024 school year, and will be invited to take part in events and activities enabling them to discover the sector and then promote it within their communities. In particular, they will be visiting the Astronaut Training Center in Cologne in November.
After thanking all the LSA partners and teams who contributed to the project, LSA Managing Director Marc Serres declared: "We were delighted to see the great motivation of the young people to take part in the competition, but also the mobilization of all the families to enable their children to live their passion. And for those who missed this first opportunity: see you in 2025!"
After sharing his personal impressions of the flight, the Minister of the Economy declared: "Today I was able to realize a childhood dream, as I've always been passionate about space. This flight was a wonderful opportunity for young people, who I hope will now be even more motivated to embark on scientific or technical studies and a career in the space sector. The development of talent and the enthusiasm of the younger generation are key to the continued success of the space sector in Luxembourg.