Mission-X: Springing Into Action

Spring has arrived and thousands of schoolchildren are stretching their muscles and brains to reach the finishing line of Mission-X. After six weeks of activities inspired by astronaut training, these future space explorers will celebrate their achievements with special events all over the world. Each school follows its own pace in this competition which combines fitness, healthy eating and problem-solving. Around 15 000 students from over 20 countries built their own model satellites, conquered a martian mountain or worked in teams to solve puzzles.

European astronauts were watching them closely. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano encouraged the children to get fitter, while ESA astronaut Andre Kuipers boosted their energy at the international Mission-X opening event last February.

Communication, athletic ability and scientific aptitude were rewarded in ceremonies around the world. Some teams have already completed the challenge and received recognition during national closing events. Austrian astronaut Franz Viehboeck hosted an 'Oscar ceremony' for the kids, and NASA astronaut Michael Barrant acted as a game-show host for participants from the United States.

In Portugal, participants learned about proper nutrition, hydration and space food by using kitchens as laboratories. A school in Norway shared a rocket cake as a special treat for completing the mission.

Spanish participants visited the European Space Astronomy Centre in Madrid, where astrophysicists and engineers showed them different ways of observing the Universe. Parents in Indonesia set an example for their children by joining in the fitness challenge and exercising every day.

Mission-X is a yearly challenge that grows each time. "The teams are already thinking of ways to work with each other for next year's competition!" noted a teacher from New York.

ESA's ESTEC space research and technology centre in the Netherlands will host the Mission-X international closing event at the beginning of July. Students will have the chance to talk to an astronaut and learn more about space science.

All participants are welcome to register before the end of May. Places are limited so... on your marks!

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