Solenix flies high in support of the ESRIN 50th anniversary event and the ESRIN Φ-lab

10 October 2018

The last week of September was one of the most important in the recent history of ESRIN, the Italian establishment of the European Space Agency, to which Solenix provides engineering and management support services since almost a decade.

ESRIN celebrated its 50th anniversary and a large event was organized for the occasion, with the participation of guests of the highest profile. From ministers of the Italian government and ESA top management, including the Director General and several other ESA Directors, to astronauts Luca Parmitano and Thomas Pesquet, the event was a showcase that allowed ESRIN to be centre stage for European space and put some of its achievements and work on display.

Solenix, always at the forefront of innovation, was heavily involved in the event and, as part of its activities in support of the innovation lab recently created at ESRIN, the Φ-lab, showed one of the highlights of the week to ESA Director General Jan Wörner and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, who was on-site also to present Beyond, his upcoming 2019 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and unveil the official patch. The Italian astronaut will be commander of the ISS, an honour that has seldom been conferred to a European.

Our Paulo got to show the two reputed guests the output of one of the Φ-lab's ongoing activities: the exploitation of Virtual Reality (VR) technology to explore virtual worlds and visualise data (Earth Observation but not only) in a novel and appealing manner. Paulo guided the improvised travellers, wearing a VR headset, through a virtual Earth, populated with Earth Observation products (snow cover, avalanche detection, soil subsidence using InSAR technology, flood monitoring) and Point cloud sites (a model of the ESRIN site, a tree plantation in Spain), finishing with a voyage and guided tour of the Moon with its dark and clear spots and craters, and with two surprises on store: a 3D model of the ESA Moon Village concept and a model of the Apollo Lunar Module (LEM) vehicle, inclusive of the two golf balls that astronaut Alan Shepard stroke during the Apollo 14 mission. Getting to guide a real ESA astronaut during a Moon exploration - albeit virtual - was no doubt an inspiring experience and all in a fun and relaxed atmosphere, as the pictures can attest to.