A summer of space

This summer, space experts and professionals from across the globe will be gathering in the Netherlands for the 31st annual International Space University (ISU) Space Studies Programme (SSP). The Netherlands Space Office, in collaboration with TU Delft, Leiden University and the European Space Agency, will be hosting this prestigious event from 25 June to 24 August.

A one of a kind programme

Founded in 1988, the Space Studies Program (SSP) is a nine-week graduate level professional development programme held in a different country each year. This year the programme will take place at different locations across the Netherlands, with a significant portion being held at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. The interdisciplinary curriculum covers both technical and non-technical space related fields, including policy and law, business and management, engineering, physical sciences and space applications.

Around 140 participants, the largest group to date, are expected to attend and will be housed on campus at TU Delft. “Most of the teaching and project work during the first weeks will take place here at the faculty,” said Ineke Boneschansker, communications manager for the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering and a member of the local organising committee. “So people who work here or study here and are around during the summer will get to experience the energy that it brings.”

Learning from a wide range of experts

The SSU programme is intensive and gives participants a broad experience including various lectures, group projects and visits to industry. According to Boneschansker, about 225 lecturers are brought in from all over the world. “These are really interesting people,” she said. “They are astronauts from NASA, space entrepreneurs, artists, science fiction writers, film makers and directors, but also doctors and space law people. There are all these disciplines that we don’t have in house and they will all be here teaching. I think that’s fantastic.”

One of those lecturers is TU Delft’s own Dr. Daphne Stam, Associate Professor of Planetary Sciences. She said it is an honour to be invited to give a core lecture about solar system planets and exoplanets and it’s also a benefit to the faculty. “The space department at aerospace has been growing during the last years, partly because of the increased interest in space due to commercial companies, for example Elon Musk launching his Tesla into space,” she said. “We already have quite a good reputation internationally, but I think by hosting this we put ourselves on the map.” She also noted that this event is helping to build and strengthen collaborations, especially with the astronomers in Leiden.

Something for everyone

Luckily, it’s not just SSP participants who get to benefit from the summer programme. Local organisers have also launched the Sizzling Summer of Space with numerous activities all open to the public. Events for space enthusiasts of all ages will be taking place in the cities of Delft, Leiden, The Hague and Noordwijk. “I know that people are busy and it’s a summer holiday period, but this is going to be really special and it’s worth it,” said Boneschansker.

And there really is something for everyone. Activities include exhibits throughout the summer at the Delft central library entitled The Afterlife of Satellites and Food for Mars. On 26 June, former NASA astronaut Jeff Hoffman will give a lecture about his five space missions, including his work to repair the Hubble space telescope. The Science Centre will host an event on 30 June for Asteroid Day, a day organised to raise awareness about asteroids. And local film house Lumen is hosting the Unlimited Space Film Festival with screenings such as the documentary Orphans of Apollo on 12 July, introduced by the director Michael Potter.

You can also visit the Science Café on 5 July at the central library in The Hague, where three scientists will give short, but inspiring lectures sharing the latest insights into their fields. And on 10 July, Pete Worden of Breakthrough Initiatives will be giving a lecture about the Starships project. And of particular interest is a unique robot building competition. As part of their coursework, SSP participants will be building and programming Lego robot landers. Students from local schools are also taking on the challenge and the adults and youngsters will compete against each other at the grand finale on 14 July, with astronaut Andre Kuipers in attendance. These are just a few of the many upcoming events, but for a detailed schedule and full descriptions click here.

An opportunity not to be missed

It is indeed a unique opportunity for the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering and the local community to be involved with both the SSP and the Sizzling Summer of Space. “It will make the faculty visible as an essential partner in the Dutch space sector,” said Boneschansker, “and it will make us visible to the international space world.” But it is also a chance to show what the aerospace faculty does to the general public. With that in mind, Boneschansker thinks everyone should try and take part. “This is so big we will probably never do it again at the faculty and it would be a shame if people don’t benefit from it,” she said. “Try to join the public events and take your family. Support your colleagues who are a part of this and be visible.”