The Euro Space Center in Redu (Transinne), a well-known centre for scientific and educational tourism, reopened this autumn after more than a year of renovation work. The theme park now features brand new attractions and carefully redesigned educational programmes. For W+B readers, let's take a look behind the scenes of a very beautiful tourist location in Wallonia and embark on a great space odyssey together.
By Emmanuelle Dejaiffe
Half-way between Brussels and Luxembourg, along the E411 motorway, the eye is inevitably drawn to the main building, standing proudly with its futuristic architecture. This is a real challenge for this institution, which is already more than 30 years old. The renovation of the project and its new dynamics offer a response to the technological and scientific advances in the space sector in recent decades. The total budget for the renovation, which is close to 13 million euros, has made it possible to develop a visitors' route that integrates high-performance interactive tools for popularising science with innovative museology. It will amaze everyone who dreams of distant stars and galaxies.
A dynamic centre
The project, which opened in the 1990s, is the result of a bold gamble by Léon Magin, Mayor of Libin. Alongside him, the Idelux intermunicipal association took matters into its own hands and obtained a Space Camp licence. The adventure began and strong partnerships were forged right from the start. The partners, still involved today, are Belspo (Federal Scientific Policy), the Province of Luxembourg (via the Region), the Idelux intermunicipal association and the municipality of Libin. There are also synergies with international stakeholders through several NASA and ESA educational programmes. The Center's hi-tech environment has led several leading technology companies and start-ups to set up operations in the region.
The Mars Village
Objective Mars! The Red Planet is the key attraction in 2020, with an entire village dedicated to it. Visitors can discover it from every angle and have the chance to walk on Martian soil as if they were really there. The aim is to show how humans are preparing to go to Mars, and how they will live there. The multi-module route first addresses the theme of the journey to Mars. A second module allows visitors to attempt a Mars landing, and the third module covers the main characteristics of the planet (topography, geology, climate and atmosphere).
The new key concept offers the unique experience of astronaut training. Thrills guaranteed... For young and old alike, the course is an opportunity to test your skills while choosing a personalised programme: balance tests, visual perception, speed, personality, etc.
The day passes at lightning speed and is divided into four main stages - astronaut selection tests/astronaut training/space travel/conquering the planet Mars. Various installations and simulators allow visitors to experience the emotions of our space heroes and find themselves in the shoes of Neil Armstrong or Frank De Winne.
Just some of the many attractions included in the programme are:
- the Free Fall Slide, a giant, seven-metre-high slide that allows visitors to feel a sensation of weightlessness through free falling. A winch hoists you up before an emotional slide down.
- Outside the main building is the Space Rotor, which is a real human centrifuge. Here, visitors feel the conditions an astronaut experiences when the rocket takes off and withstands G-force.
- The 5D Space Show is a dynamic cinema that promises an exciting experience.
- In the Planetarium, the sky is revealed under a large dome, giving a unique view of the stars. This is an opportunity to discover the history of Space.
For food lovers...
Finally, at the Voyager Cafe, where everything has been designed for greater enjoyment, visitors will be able to savour a Mars Burger and taste a home-made beer called Capsule. For trainees and families who choose a two-day package, the sleeping areas have also been carefully refurbished.
An institution with an international reputation
A benchmark in Belgium, but also well beyond our borders, the Center welcomes visitors of more than forty different nationalities every year. After reopening, the goal is to attract 100,000 people per year, all types of visitor included. "It's off to a good start," says spokesperson Yvan Fonteyne, because "we have been full every day since we opened". This demonstrates the real appeal of well thought-out scientific tourism that uses the latest technological advances.*
Boosted by its revival, the Euro Space Center is both a true showcase for Space and a fantastic educational playground that, in its current format, opens up the horizons of visitors of all ages.
For a different view of the ESC, below is an interview with the Center's spokesperson, Yvan Fonteyne.
Do you have any unique "attractions"?
The Moonwalk XP/Marswalk XP is unique in the world. You can feel the gravity of the Moon and Mars and walk on Martian or lunar ground thanks to virtual reality technology.
The Euro Space Center is renowned for hosting large numbers of groups during the school year as well as numerous trainees. Is this educational component important? Do you also want to encourage new job interests at a time when young people can sometimes lose interest in scientific careers?
One of our major objectives is to make science accessible to everyone and encourage scientific careers. The programmes of the space classes and traineeships are therefore tailor-made to best meet this objective.
Finally, do you have an anecdote you can tell us about the institution? We can imagine that this is a place many of its young visitors dream about?
Nicolas, our record-breaker for the number of Euro Space Center traineeships, has taken 18 traineeships at a rate of two to three per year. His biggest disappointment was turning 18, because he could no longer come to us for training!
The Euro Space Center - practical details:
Address: Devant les Hêtres 1 - B-6890 Transinne
Reservations: +32 (0)61 65 01 33 - firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is from the W+B Magazine n°150