99 objects that tell stories from ESA’s technical heart

99 objects that tell stories from ESA's technical heart

A selection of items from the ESA ESTEC in 99 Objects website. Credit: ESA-Remedia

From simulated moon dust to an ultra-flat floor, a 3D-printed human bone to a wall decoration that once flew on the Hubble Space Telescope, the new 99 Objects of ESA ESTEC website gives visitors a close-up of exciting, often surprising artifacts gathered to tell the story of ESA’s technical heart.

“Objects are what matter,” the famous anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss once wrote. “Only they bear the proof that something has really happened among people over the centuries.” So what kind of objects come out of more than half a century of activity in Europe’s largest space center?

The European Space Research and Technology Center, ESTEC, is ESA’s largest company, based on the North Sea coast at Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

Often described as ESA’s technical heart, ESTEC is where most ESA projects are born and where they are guided through the various stages of development. It is also the Agency’s Center for Technology Development and includes Europe’s largest satellite test center, equipped to simulate all aspects of the spaceflight environment.

During its long and distinguished history as an incubator for Europe’s space efforts – ESTEC’s first satellite was launched back in 1968, the same year the establishment opened – this establishment has amassed a rich stash of objects. Whether exotic or ordinary, each tells a story – about inspiration and perseverance, about steps back and forth, about exploration, discovery and surprise.

99 objects that tell stories from ESA's technical heart

Part of a solar panel from the Hubble Space Telescope was returned to Earth by the space shuttle and is now on display at ESA’s technical center ESTEC in the Netherlands. Credit: ESA-Redmedia

A selection of items from the new ESA ESTEC in 99 Objects website. Credit: ESA-Redmedia

The goal of ESA ESTEC IN 99 OBJECTS is to map Europe’s cosmic journey through artifacts left behind by scientists and engineers who have helped launch more than 180 missions.

Surrounded by these 99 objects and many more, nearly 3,000 international experts are currently working in 35 ESTEC laboratories on the missions – and new objects – that will define the coming decades in space.

The first selection of objects has already gone live on the site, and more will follow in the coming weeks and months.

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99 objects that tell stories from ESA’s technical heart (2021, 28 December)
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