Experiencing SPACE in Holland
Flying in, we could see the coastline and observe the geometric patterns in the landscape. Fields bounded by water, lined for crops. As we travelled by train and bus, we got another perspective on this carefully planned and well-maintained landscape. Mother nature carefully shackled but her beauty evident, particularly in the rows of daffodils. Some had escaped to provide little yellow dashes in the ditches and hedgerows along the little rural road that we walked on our way to our accommodation. From our hotel room, we could admire the fields of yellow that gave way to straw covered plots where tulips would soon proclaim their vibrant song. The geometry of Holland was less evident on the beach at Noordwijk. Throngs of people enjoyed the exceptionally fine weather along the sandy shore. Later we ate as the sun set at one of the restaurants on the beach – their menu made obsolete by the unexpected crowd but tasty nonetheless. That night we met our team who gathered from Belgium, Holland, Norway, Portugal and Wales. We were planning a journey to SPACE.
We were based at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) for our meetings. Like a proud father, Bernard Foing sat beside me speaking of STEAM-1, the craft he had project managed the creation of and which reached Mars. One of the most generous people I have met, he spoke with us with great enthusiasm. A rocket scientist, he extolled the virtues of artists. He too was a creator and, as we would find out that evening, music was another of his talents.
Entering the Escape building at ESTEX, we were encountering a world that was strange to many of us. Symbolically our meeting took place in the dance studio. From here we were taken on a tour that allowed us to gain a new perspective on life in space, guided by people with direct experience, entering a model of the Columbus module from the International Space Station, meeting with scientists who were actually planning for human habitation on the moon. Bernard’s opening presentation to us was entitled, ‘MoonMars Village: SciTech, Resources for Life, society and Arts’, which highlighted questions related to heritage and culture on future developments. Artists and experts drawn from the humanities were part of the solution to the challenges that lay ahead.
We did not meet all of our targets on the first day in terms of planned outputs but the day provided us with unrivalled inspiration and a realisation that we were part of a process that would lead to a moon village and human engagement with Mars. We could take our experiences and encourage, inspire and motivate children and students across Europe to take a greater interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics using all of the creativity offered and inspired by the Arts. Our first day was along day. Having left the hostel straight from breakfast, we went through security to enter ESTEC. Having discussed various aspects of our project, the Global Science Opera and the participation of the European Space Agency, as well as being informed on the work of scientists and others at ESTEC, we found ourselves enjoying pizza and a drink as the sun began to set. Bernard brought a telescope through which we could observe the sun and identify sun spots. Later, he showed us the stars and we gazed through the lens at the planet Jupiter. We left for our hotel recognising other constellations that were appearing in the night sky.
Our second day at ESTEXC took a different structure as we set about completing tasks in subgroups. We worked on some of our Intellectual Outputs including the website and digital toolkit, the latter being hosted and developed by Dundalk Institute of Technology. We discussed how to ensure students were involved and considered options for dissemination of our research, including the Society for Music Education in Ireland Conference which will be held at Dundalk Institute of Technology in November 2017.
With plans in place for activities in Belgium, Ireland, Norway and Portugal over the next 24 months, we said our goodbyes, each with a to-do list and renewed motivation to achieve our objectives.
The last stop prior to departing from Schiphol Airport was the city of Leiden. A city of art, it was once home to Rembrandt. A city of science, Albert Einstein (1879–1955) worked as a lecturer and researcher at Leiden University for periods of time between 1916 and 1930. It was the home of Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926) who developed cryogenics there, leading to Leiden being recognised as the coldest place on Earth. For us, it was basked in sunshine. We crossed canals, walked passed windmills and a variety of old buildings that formed an atmospheric and historical built heritage, brought alive by the throngs of people enjoying a glass of wine in the exceptional spring sunshine. As we gazed at the bright blue sky, we had a new understanding of the creative possibilities beyond in SPACE.