The Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse celebrates its 25th anniversary this Saturday with a day of free entertainment. These animations, which are available to the general public, make the site successful because they make it possible to popularize often very complex scientific ideas. We reveal behind the scenes with the person responsible for these exhibitions.
Do you dream of walking on the moon? Putting yourself in Thomas Pesquet’s place in the International Space Station? Rubbing your shoulders with the robots that have to explore Mars … All this is possible in the Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse thanks to the curiosity and ingenuity of the animation designers, each more incredible than the next. We asked 3 questions to Aude Lesty, head of the exhibition and cultural heritage department.
We choose a topic and we have a journalistic approach. We start by researching the key information of the topic. For example, about the Mars exploration, it is the news that guided us with the exploration of rovers on Mars.
We were interested in making robots, and we then cross-referenced our information with what makes up our DNA in the Cité de l’Espace: to bring visitors as close as possible to these robots and in a perfectly realistic environment, that’s gear, rock and their color. The idea is to recreate this environment identical for a concrete and totally immersive experience.
It’s a real challenge. A true technological achievement for all those who manufacture them. to take the example of robots, we have asked space agencies, laboratories and manufacturers to remanufacture these robots for us. It’s not just mockups. They work almost like the real ones. Here in the space city, they are in operation every day, and they move in the same way as those sent out into space.
Nothing is left to chance. The visitor must really have the feeling of being with them on Mars. The environment also means a lot. The rocks were sculpted and painted from images and information that came directly from scientists’ observation. The domes, which serve as garages for rovers, have air conditioning in the summer, are heated in the winter to protect the robots. Scientists and the entire space industry are encouraged to get as close to reality as possible with advanced techniques.
Between the launch of the project and its completion, it takes about 2 and a half years of work, and the site alone takes 7 months. This is exactly the time it took the Perseverance robot to travel between Earth and Mars.
The good thing is that we have no scientific education. We just have a big appetite and a curiosity for the space domain, and I think that’s what makes us strong.
During the preparation, we ask the researchers the questions that any visitor may ask. And the experts agree to moderate this complex content so that it is understandable to as many people as possible. The idea is actually to make the subject relevant and accessible to everyone, even the youngest.
Over the years, we have dealt with many topics and we have given visitors the opportunity to access completely dissected space news thanks to these animations, whether it be launchers, manned flights, the Moon and now Mars.
During Thomas Pesquet’s Alpha mission, we were able to answer all the questions he had about life aboard the ISS. And it will be the same with our next exhibition, which opens in the summer of 2023 on the Artemis mission, which will mark man’s return to the moon. This equipment will make it possible to simulate the sensations that astronauts experience during a trip from Earth to the Moon. It is a journey that few people will take in the next few years and it is great to be able to get acquainted with those who will one day take this step.
Like all our activities at the Cité de l’Espace, the one created for the Artemis mission will allow visitors to see, experience and understand, from the first automatic flight without anyone on board, to the human return to the moon on the horizon 2025, passing through the flight around the moon. Each of these steps will be followed each time with new information for the visitor.
The concrete, the real thing, has been the DNA of the Cité de l’Espace for 25 years in Toulouse. It is also what created its undeniable success.
So if you’re passionate about space or just curious, do not miss the meeting on Saturday, June 25th. The Cité de l’Espace blows out its 25 candles. For the apartment, admission and access to the animations will be free. The promise of a hell of a trip with his head in the stars.