Press Release

Europlanet Outreach Prize Goes to Austrian Space Forum

By SpaceRef Editor
May 31, 2011
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The 2011 Europlanet prize for excellence in public engagement with planetary science has been awarded to the Austrian Space Forum.

The Austrian Space Forum is a national network for aerospace specialists and space enthusiasts. It is a volunteer organization led by space professionals, focusing on space research including human-robotic Mars exploration. Since 1998, it has developed an outreach program that targets schools, teachers, the general public and the media. The spectrum of its outreach activities ranges from simple classroom presentations to space exhibitions reaching 15,000 visitors.

The award of 4,000 Euros will be presented to the Austrian Space Forum at the European Planetary Science Congress and Division for Planetary Sciences (EPSC-DPS) 2011 Joint Meeting, which will take place at La Cite Internationale des Congres Nantes Metropole, Nantes, France, from 02-07 October 2011.

“The Austrian Space Forum is a model for organizations reaching out to the wider community. The judges were very impressed by the range of activities, by the innovative practices used to target different audiences, and by the numbers of visitors attending events,” said Dr Thierry Fouchet, Outreach Coordinator for Europlanet.

“We feel very privileged to receive the honor of this award,” said Gernot Groemer, President of the Austrian Space Forum. “We consider education and outreach as a partnership at eye level – the knowledge and fascination we transfer to our communities about space activities has started to come back to our organization in the form of talented interns, enthusiastic volunteers and even professionals dedicating their expertise.”

“We are deeply convinced that the young people we are reaching with our activities are indeed the very generation which will continue our voyages throughout the Solar System, including a crewed mission to Mars,” added Groemer. “So who knows if with one of our lectures, hands-on activities, education projects or so we have already planted the seed for a future career as a planetary scientist or Mars astronaut.”

The Austrian Space Forum’s research activities in the field of Mars exploration are complemented by a strong focus on educational and outreach aspects. The Forum has run schools competitions to design Mars missions and has developed a series of planet-themed outreach kits for audiences ranging from kindergarten to teenagers and adults. The kits include a set of space suits, a Martian landscape and a remote-controlled Mars rover, complete with cameras and a robotic arm. Public events include multimedia shows, often in partnership with science museums, and presences at festivals e.g. Ars Electronica Center Festival, Linz and the Innsbruck Autumn Fair.

The Austrian Space Forum produces regular press fact sheets on planetary science topics and events, as well as updates on its activities via its website, monthly newsletter, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. In April, the Austrian Space Forum mounted a field campaign to a Mars analogue site in Rio Tinto, Spain, to test the spacesuit simulator, Aouda.X. The campaign was part of PolAres, an interdisciplinary program of the Austrian Space Forum, in cooperation with international partners, to develop strategies in preparation for future human-robotic exploration of the surface of Mars.

Thierry Fouchet
Europlanet Outreach Coordinator

Daniela Scheer
Austrian Space Forum
+43 650 395 11 77

Gernot Groemer
Austrian Space Forum
+43 512 507-6033

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The Austrian Space Forum (Oesterreichisches Weltraum Forum, OeWF)
serves as a communication platform between the space sector and the
public; it is embedded in a global network of specialists from the
space industry, research and policy. Hence, the OeWF facilitates a
strengthening of the Austrian space sector through enhancing the
public visibility of space activities, technical workshops and
conferences as well as Forum-related projects.

The Europlanet Research Infrastructure is a major (O6 million) program
co-funded by the European Union under the Seventh Framework Programme
of the European Commission. The Europlanet Research Infrastructure
links more than 100 laboratories in Europe and around the world. The
project aims to integrate and consolidate the planetary science
community in Europe by organizing networking activities, meetings and
conferences, providing access to laboratories and field sites in
Europe, developing new facilities and field sites and creating online
access to planetary science data. Through its outreach activities,
Europlanet aims to create a dynamic network of people across Europe
involved in public engagement with planetary science, motivate and
enable European planetary scientists to be involved with outreach
activities and find innovative ways of raising the profile of Europe’s
planetary science activity among citizens, as well as policy makers
and industry.

EPSC-DPS 2011 will take place from 02-07 October 2011 at La Cite
Internationale des Congres Nantes Metropole, Nantes, France. The
meeting will bring together the international community of specialists
in the planetary sciences to present and discuss the latest results of
research on the solar system and other solar systems. The five-day
meeting will be organized in parallel sessions of oral and poster
presentations as well as workshops related to research, teaching and
outreach in the planetary sciences.

SpaceRef staff editor.