Odysseus Explorers Finalists of 2016 working for the Spaceship program of the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne

Dimitris Athanasopoulos and Konstantinos Karampelas, are currently following a six months internship period at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) of ESA, in Cologne Germany, with the support of the Odysseus II project. Dimitris and Konstantinos participated in the 2016 Odysseus Contest, winning third place honors in the Explorers category, with a project investigating how Lunar Pits can be used as a base for designing and constructing a self-sufficient colony in Moon.

They both talked to the Odysseus team about their work at ESA and about their future plans.

Dimitris in EAC

  • What is it like to work at the European Astronaut Centre of ESA?
Working in ESA has been my aspiration for many years. So, I am very excited and glad, since a dream comes true. The work in EAC is fascinating and very interesting in a unique, multicultural and nice working environment. People, with different backgrounds and from different scientific or engineering fields, are harmonically working together.  In this way, the implementation of projects advances to a higher level and any problems could be addressed more easily.  I would say that the work in ESA is more of academic nature and there is no stress.  This encourages me to be more active and creative.
My internship in ESA-EAC is an opportunity to live in a foreign country and to participate in an exciting research team!  Working in ESA has been such an amazing experience. I met scientists from different cultures and I had the opportunity to apply my knowledge on Space Science, while working in Computational Physics.  Although the thought of living six months abroad seemed scary some months ago, I now find myself overwhelmed by the possibilities and the experiences that I am having in Cologne!
The project on which I am currently working focuses on a mission to the Moon, which actually was the inspiration for our involvement in the Odysseus II Contest in the first place.   Even just working on this project in the facilities of EAC has been awesome for me.   Besides that, I have already made new friends from different backgrounds, I started learning German and I got the chance to take part in the famous Cologne carnival celebrations!

Konstantinos Karampelas

  • On which project you are involved at EAC – ESA and what are your responsibilities as interns?
I have joined the Spaceship EAC, which is a team of highly motivated and multidisciplinary young professionals and students from all over Europe. The prime goal of Spaceship EAC is human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit (LEO), with the exploration of our Moon as its first increment.   My project is focused on radiation shielding for the future ESA ‘s lunar base. I do simulations with different known types of regolith (lunar soil) to see if they provide different shielding. These types of regolith differ in their chemical composition, which is depended on their location. My goal is to find candidate locations on the Moon for building a safe lunar habitat, taking into account also other parameters, like the meteorite flux .  My responsibility, as an intern, is to be creative.
As a trainee, I am part of the Spaceship EAC program, a traineeship program with the main objective to conduct research for a future lunar mission.  The research work involves 3D-printing, material science, robotics and radiation shielding projects; the latter being the project I personally contribute in.  Particularly, I am simulating the lunar radiation environment studying lunar regolith’s characteristics as a shielding material.
  • What career path you would like to follow after completing the internship at ESA?
After my internship, I would like to do my Master’s degree in Astrophysics and to do research on Observational Astrophysics and (exo)planetary science.  Maybe after this, I will apply for a Young Graduate Trainee position in ESA. But in any case, I would like to pursue a PhD.   I do not know how my path will be, but all I know is that I will have as a guide the study of those things which impress me.
After completing the traineeship at ESA and attaining my Bachelor degree, I would like to pursue a career in Theoretical Physicist in High Energy Physics, focusing on Mathematical Physics and Quantum Field Theories.  I still don’t know whether my post-graduate studies will be in Greece, elsewhere in Europe or in the USA!
  • Looking back, would you repeat the effort of participating at the Odysseus Contest?
I would have definitely participated again at the Odysseus Contest no matter what the final result of it may be. Odysseus contest was not only a journey into knowledge but it was also a real one, through which I had the chance to see different countries and to meet with other people sharing the same passion about space and science.  From my perspective what you mainly gain from the contest is the experience with working on a project.  It is very important for students to learn how to apply their academic knowledge to practical situations and real projects and the contest provided a great opportunity for this.
When thinking about the time I started working on our project and about where this contest has led me to now, I realize how much I gained by participating in the Odysseus contest.  Not only I had the  valuable opportunity to make international contacts in the Space industry, but I also met new people, I saw new places and I had fun at the same time; I am absolutely sure I would repeat all of the efforts for participating again at the contest!

Dimitris & Konstantinos in the 2016 Odysseus Final

Dimitris is a student at the Department of Physics of the University of Athens and he is now completing his final thesis for the degree.   He is concerned about public outreach and as a member of a university team he recently earned the “Public Engangement Funding Scheme 2017” from Europlanet.  Their project is called “Planets in Your Hand” and is dealing with a demonstration of planetary surface models, presenting the specifications of each planet of our Solar System.  Dimitris is also a volunteer in astronomy and space events organized every year by the University of Athens Observatory, like the World Space Week (WSW), the Reseacher ‘s Night and the Athens Science Festival.  He loves reading books, playing board games with friends and camping for stargazing with his telescope. 

Passion for astronomy

Konstantinos studies Physics at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. His interests vary from solving differential equations to acting in the theater and from playing video games to photography and sightseeing with friends.