ESA participated in the Kid’s Weightless Dreams campaign organised by Novespace and Rêves de Gosse giving children with disabilities the opportunity to experience weightlessness and lunar gravity on a parabolic flight.
Eight children from five ESA member states – UK, France, Germany, Belgium, and Italy –boarded the Zero- G Airbus A310 in Bordeaux on 24 August.
In addition to experiencing weightlessness, the children were also involved in science demonstrations. These included lighting a candle, mixing liquids of different densities, playing Ping-Pong with bubbles of water and working a fidget spinner to demonstrate the effects of microgravity.
Prior to the flight, the children participated in an educational workshop organised by ESA Education to explain the experiments and demonstrations and introduce the children to the concepts of gravity.
Joining the children were ESA astronauts from their corresponding member states who have flown in space. Tim Peake (UK), Frank de Winne (BE), Maurizio Cheli (IT), Thomas Reiter (DE), Claudie Haigneré (FR) and Jean-Francois Clervoy (FR) were on board to assist and mentor the children and answer their questions.
Two disabled adults, former athlete and German television personality Samuel Koch, a strong
advocate for disabled causes, and Philippe Carette, a very active Rêve de Gosse volunteer, also took
part in the flight.
Parabolic flights are the only way to perform science and tests in microgravity with human operators without going through lengthy astronaut-training and flights to the International Space Station. A typical parabolic flight campaign offers 30 periods of weightlessness per flight. In two dedicated
parabolic flight campaigns every year, of three flights each, ESA sponsors scientific research on the Zero-G plane, operated by Novespace.
ESA’s director general Jan Wörner also joined the Kid’s Weightless Dreams flight and says: “ESA is
delighted to support this initiative. Educating and inspiring as diverse audience as possible, including youth, on science and spaceflight is among our priorities and to be able to extend this to children of all capabilities is doubly rewarding.”
At the end of the flight Claudie Haigneré said « It was impressive. This flight was not usual, but
confidence was immediately established. Thanks to the excellent preparation, it was not just
entertainment. Everyone had a strong desire to take advantage of the flight. It was daring but the result is there and I can say that we have seen happiness ».
The campaign was organised by Rêves de Gosse who have been working for over 20 years to bring
children together and work on projects related to aviation ending in a flight on an aircraft. This year
the culmination of their project was extra special. In addition to education program ESA provided
logistical support for the children and astronauts. Organisations in five countries selected the
• Fondation Richard in Lyon, France
• The German Sports University in Köln, Germany
• We Fly! Team in Seniga, Italy
• Happy Days Children Charity in Luton, UK
• Fondation Saint-Luc in Bruxelles, Belgique
Source: ESA, Rêves de Gosse, Novespace