The campaign has been in the making for a long time, and the grand finale is to take place today: ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer will show “class selfies” by over 1,000 children on the ISS – in a live stream at 3:15 p.m. German time. The selfies were drawn by schoolchildren as part of the “Hand in Hand Around the World” campaign and have been on the ISS since August 30 of this year. Maurer has been on board since November 2021.
Children and trainees involved
As reported by the ESA, for showing the images (the live stream can be followed on Youtube) built a special device. Trainees from the Aerospace Center (DLR) manufactured the aluminum container with a winding and unwinding device so that all safety rules on board the ISS are observed during the campaign.
The campaign can look back on a long period of preparation, which, however, compared to many other space projects, can still be considered very manageable. Preparations began in April 2020. In November 2020, elementary school students were then invited to draw “class selfies”. These selfies could be sent to the youth portal DLR_next. The German Aerospace Center selected selfies from 30 school classes from the submissions, which were then printed on a ten meter long, narrow strip of fabric. All the others were stored on a USB stick, which also traveled to the ISS with the container.
Trainees from the DLR_School_Lab Braunschweig then went to work and had to meet a number of important requirements: “All objects that are brought to the ISS have to pass a large number of tests beforehand. You can’t just pack them up and put them in the space transporter,” declared Dr. Volker Kratzenberg-Annies in October 2021 in a progress report. Among other things, Kratzenberg-Annies is responsible for promoting young talent and initiated the campaign “Hand in Hand around the World” with Frank Fischer from School_Lab.
Small, handy, safe
The container should be “small, handy, light and safe”. Handy, for example, so that Matthias Maurer can easily unroll and roll up the strip in weightlessness. Light and small, because every gram of weight plays a role when a rocket is launched and as much as possible should be able to travel with it. The filmstrip is made safe, for example, by the fact that it is not made of paper, as was originally planned. “Paper creates dust when it is wound and unwound. Dust is undesirable because it floats around and could be inhaled,” explains Frank Fischer. He and his team have selected a special fabric that also has good fire protection properties. The fabric was printed with a color that could not evaporate.
Initially, several 3D printed prototypes were built for the housing. Then the prospective precision mechanics produced the metal designs together with their trainer. Rolling and unrolling was tested in a parabolic flight. In April 2021, the images were mailed to NASA in the USA in their metal container.
However, there is now not just one image strip including the housing, but three, so that there is a replacement in an emergency and, for example, problem solutions can also be tried out on earth using the construction model if there are difficulties with the flight unit on the ISS. The class pictures will also come back to earth later. There, the textile strip is to be cut up class by class, framed and sent to the respective schools with a certificate.