Space is all around us, and not just literally, either; over the past decades, we have been relying more on space than ever before, to help us with communication, mobility and tackling problems like climate change. At Space Expo in Noordwijk, the official visitor centre for ESA ESTEC, you can learn all about space. “But we need more space,” says Barbara Hoppel, director of Space Expo.
TEXT: MICHIEL STOL | PHOTOS: SPACE EXPO | MAIN IMAGE: BARBARA HOPPEL, DIRECTOR OF SPACE EXPO.
ESTEC is the European Space Research and Technology Centre of the European space agency ESA. Here in Noordwijk, roughly 2,800 people work in the technical heart of ESA. As space and spaceflight continues to expand with the possibility of more manned flights and even commercial space flights, Space Expo is looking towards its own expansion. Hoppel: “Each year, over 100,000 people visit us. They love our museum, but we want to give them more. We want them to experience more space and technology. That is why, in 2020, there will be an overhaul of the museum. We might want our visitors to even go on their own ‘mission’. As for the long term, we want to go a step further, even. Space Expo should become an experience centre full of knowledge, information and education.”
The Soyuz capsule of André Kuipers
Since its opening in 1990, Space Expo has been displaying a highly interesting space exhibition. The interactive museum has a lot to offer for all ages. Children are in an exciting environment, there are many interactive places and almost everything can be touched. The older the children are, the more information they will pick up. “They even get their own astronaut diploma afterwards.” Grown-ups will enjoy the museum as well. The main exhibition shows all that has to do with space travel, satellites and technology. “One of the main features is the Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft that brought Dutch astronaut André Kuipers to the International Space Station (ISS) and back. Kuipers has been to space twice.”
Apollo and the moon landing
This year is the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. To commemorate that, Space Expo has an exhibition dedicated to this event. “That moment was of such importance. So, we are delighted that we have can show original items (and replicas) that were part of the manned space project, Apollo.”
A bright new feature
Even though the museum is already fascinating, Hoppel is preparing for ‘more space’, both literally and figuratively speaking. “Our ambition is for Space Expo to become the window into the Dutch space community, with strong ties to space agencies, the universities of Leiden and Delft and other partners. And of course, to provide a unique experience with a great collection,” elaborates Hoppel. “We want to bring space travel closer to people, both for visitors of our museum as well as for businesses. Space Expo should be the place where current affairs, history, research and knowledge come together. Where you can feel the excitement of space and where like-minded people can meet.” To realise this, Space Expo is currently getting in contact with businesses, investors and creative minds alike.
Building a Space Campus
But is not just Space Expo that is in huge development. Right beside the museum, the city of Noordwijk is creating the ‘Space Campus’. “This will be a high-tech cluster on an international scale,” Hoppel continues. “It will be the place where the aerospace industry will meet and cooperate.” Multiple space related companies have already made the Space Campus their base, such as the Galileo Research Centre and the cluster of Space Business Park-companies. “We are closely involved in the developments of the Space Campus. And we are working on a feasibility study to see if we can create a new and modern Space Experience centre at the heart of the campus. These are plans that are tight-knit to the ambitions of the city of Noordwijk and the province of South Holland. So, keep a close eye on us. Amazing things will happen in the coming years. And there is still a lot of ‘space’ for companies to be part of this adventure.”