Future space explorers are getting on their marks to invade gyms and train like astronauts for the 2013 Mission-X challenge. Luca Parmitano, the next European to fly to the Space Station, is giving youngsters tips on being fit and having a healthy lifestyle.
In its third year, Mission-X fever is spreading across the planet. Schoolchildren aged 8-12 years will follow the six-week challenge in over 20 different countries. In Europe, new participants will include Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
Young explorers worldwide will earn points by completing activities inspired by astronaut training.
ESA and NASA anticipate as many as 15 000 students will join in the competition - three times more than the first time around.
Luca encourages students to focus on fitness and healthy eating throughout the challenge. In the video below, he links Mission-X exercises with real astronaut training, bringing the excitement of space exploration to schoolchildren. As he puts it, "You are the future."
487 million steps to the Moon
Following the mission plan, teams of children follow exercises in physical training to earn points during their school lessons. These points are converted into steps that will virtually take mascot Astro Charlie to the Moon, 478 million steps from Earth.
Participants will also practise scientific reasoning and teamwork. Training modules such as 'Climb a martian mountain' and 'Do a spacewalk' are among the hands-on tasks, targeting strength, endurance, coordination, balance and spatial awareness.
At the end of the mission, the teams scoring the highest points will be revealed on the Mission-X website.
The international start to Mission-X: Train Like an Astronaut 2013 is on 11 February. ESA astronaut Andre Kuipers, last year's Mission-X ambassador, will address the next generation of space explorers during a live webcast from ESA's ESTEC European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands.
How to participate
Do you want to become as fit as an astronaut? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how to join the Mission-X 2013 challenge and get Astro Charlie to the Moon.
You can also tune in to the webcast and send in questions to Andre via the email address above or via Twitter @ESAHSOeducation from the beginning of February.
To take part, schools need a gym or open area to exercise plus good collaboration between the sports and classroom teachers.
Please bear in mind that the exercises can take up to 10 hours over the course of six weeks. All of the activities are available in several languages at the website.