Becoming an astronaut has been Carolina’s dream since she visited the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral at the age of three. Now 11, the student was further inspired to pursue her dream on Friday when she met and spoke with a handful of astronauts backstage at RTL during a live transmission for Asteroid Day.
“It was great. I loved it,” Carolina said, showing off her book which had been autographed by American Nasa astronaut Ed Lu, French ESA astronaut Jean-François Clervoy, and the first and only Romanian astronaut Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu.
For anyone with an interest in space, the gathering of world experts at the RTL studios in Kirchberg was a rare privilege. Scores of experts in near Earth asteroids were invited to Luxembourg for a series of panel discussions related to mapping asteroids and finding ways to avert an impact with Earth.
When not in the studio for live panel discussions between 12noon and 6pm, astrophysicists rubbed shoulders with astronomers, writers and engineers in the green room, a large underground hall. Attendees were able to follow the broadcast on a large screen attached to a wall. In between make-up calls, dipping into the cold buffet and returning to the studio for panel spots, attendees, many of which knew one another, chatted in a relaxed and inclusive atmosphere.
“It might be surprising how many people are doing work in near-Earth asteroids. There’s a very large family,” Alan Fitzsimmons, professor of astronomy at the Queen’s University Belfast, said, showing off a piece of the asteroid which landed in Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 (pictured below with Carolina).
“I was involved in the first Asteroid Day in 2015. What’s been tremendous is to see how it’s grown in the space of two to three years to what we see today.”
For Naomi Murdoch, researcher at the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronatique et de l’Espace, the panel was day was her first experience speaking live on television. “I was surprised to be asked, but very honoured and glad to be here with my fellow scientists and engineers. It’s a fantastic set up they have here,” she said.
The broadcast from Luxembourg is part of a 24-hour programme from contributors around the world, among them Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May, who co-founded Asteroid Day.
“The outcome that we’re hoping for from today is a continued conversation about asteroids whether they be friends or foe,” Asteroid Day president Danica Remy explained.
Luxembourg was this year official partner and host of the campaign. While its space resources initiative, to exploit minerals from asteroids and near-Earth objects, has a slightly different philosophy, it shares the same goal of supporting research and development of technologies related to identifying and tracking asteroids, planets and near-Earth objects.
The Luxembourg government has pledged €450,000 to the Asteroid Day Foundation for the next three years when it is expected to continue to host the event.