At eight, he dreamed of going to Mars one day

Liu carefully adjusts his silver suit and wears his helmet before joining fellow budding astronauts on their way to their spaceship.

“Going to Mars, that’s really my dream!” Cheers the 8-year-old boy, sealed by impatience.

Pendant que le monde entier s’émerveillait des images inédites de l’atterrissage du robot Perseverance et de ses clichés de la surface de la planète rouge, un groupe d’écoliers suisses en primaire mettait la dernière main aux longs préparatifs de le le propre mission vers Mars.

Some of the country’s top space professionals and its only astronaut, Claude Nicollier – a veteran who flew the space shuttle four times – evaluated a detailed exploration plan that was put in place over a period of 9 months.

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And on March 8, they gave the green light.

Sebastian Roussel, a teacher at the private school Vivales near Lausanne, says the children literally “exploded with joy”.

And on Wednesday, they finally took off … in a bus decorated with astronauts perched on a missile directed at a large red disk.

Their trip to the space station – located in a wooded corner outside Lausanne – took much less time than the eight months it took to reach a “real” Mars, but these 16 children, ages 8 to 9, will spend three days exploring and executing Experiments along the lines that future explorers could undertake.

If the opulent Swiss nature has nothing to do with the hostile drought of the Red Planet, children nonetheless wear helmets – a full-face diving mask – and diving suits when they move outside, for added realism.

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At the station, a helmet clamped under his arm, Leo just wants to go there for real.

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“It makes you want to go to Mars, even if it’s hostile. I don’t want to land where perseverance has landed, because it’s radiant and cold.”

For more realism, children will eat freeze-dried food, but will “return” to Earth every evening, according to the epidemic.

The mission is part of the school’s philosophy, which is learning through real-life experiences, Olivier Delamadeline, the school group director, explains to AFP.

During the long months of preparation, children were able to benefit from astronomy or rocket-building workshops, led by students from the prestigious Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (EPFL).

To prepare for their mission, the children learned to calculate the distance from Earth to Mars (248 million km) and correctly spell the names of the planets in the solar system.

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The idea is to let these kids have an experience. We think that when they come back from these experiences, they are better at math, in French, simply because they have gained self-confidence, “the principal judges.

The first experience: launching paper missiles with compressed air.

Leaves are rolled into a tube, a cap on top and fins on the sides. get ready to go.

Ewan, the project manager, recommends against fumigating the adhesive.

“There’s air growing. That’s why we have to shut down here, so it can actually take off,” he advises.

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Then he puts on his helmet to equip and secure the launch pad.

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The rocket is placed on a pressurized pump and when it takes off and reaches the tops of trees, the children rejoice.

Like real gear, things don’t always go as planned.

For a girl whose missile detonated in mid-flight, the EPFL trainer recommends putting more tape during the Zoom debriefing session during which children review exams.

Careful preparation and especially the conversation via Zoom with Claude Nicolier awakened the professions.

“Yes, that’s what’s on my mind,” Liu says. “After graduation, I want to be a scientist or an astronaut.”

Images of perseverance also fuel the dream that humans will one day walk on Mars.

“Well, if it is possible for robots, I think it is possible for us too,” says Nina, one of the two mission heads appointed by her comrades.

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