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Students Darko Radakovic and Rachael Chambers of the master Earth Sciences presented their glacier experiment to the Dutch king Willem-Alexander at the occasion of 50 years of European cooperation in space on 16 December.

King Willem-Alexander during the sudent's presentation (Photo: ESA)

Royal presentation

Half a century of European cooperation in space was celebrated on 16 December at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk. Earlier this year Students Darko Radakovic and Rachael chambers performed a unique glacier experiment inside ESTEC’s research centrifuge to study the effects of gravity on the flow of ice at the surface of planet Mars. During the King’s visit on 16 December a special session was dedicated to educational projects, amongst them was the project carried out by the two UvA master students. The student team was offered the unique opportunity to present their research project to His Majesty the King, Dutch astronaut André Kuipers and other dignitaries.

Students of the master Earth Sciences present their glacier experiment to King Willem Alexander. (Photos: ESA)

Glaciers inside a centrifuge

Glaciers flow under to the influence of gravity like rivers of ice through mountain valleys. By using an ice substitute the master students simulated glacial flows in special chutes. Effects of gravity on the flow could therefore be studied by subjecting the flowing ice substitute to artificially enhanced gravity inside ESTEC’s ‘Large Diameter Centrifuge’ research facility. The observed flow patterns allow the students to reconstruct how these ice flows behave under the lower force of gravity on Mars. The experiments were made possible by the educational programme ‘Spin Your Thesis’. Radakovic and Chambers won the 2014 competition and recently used the high-tech space research facility for performing their geoscience experiments.

A unique opportunity

The student’s supervising scientists, Dr Erik Cammeraat and Dr Sebastiaan de Vet of the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) highlight the uniqueness of this opportunity for the students. ‘Presenting your own research to His Majesty the King is a rare and exceptional opportunity for students to show what motivates them in science. The special interest of the King in education simultaneously underlines the importance and success of these educational programmes for enthusing young scientists’, highlights De Vet. During the coming months the students and scientist will process their experiments to further unravel the influences of gravity on the glaciers found at the surface of Mars.

Video impression of the visit made by the Royal House (in Dutch)

50 year of European Cooperation in Space