Yolanda Trujillo Adria, finalist of the 2016 Odysseus Contest in the Explorers category, completed last month a four months internship at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) of ESA, in Cologne, as she was one of the contestants, who were supported by the Odysseus II project to get further educational and professional experience in the field of Space. Yolanda talked to the Odysseus Contest team about her experiences from the internship in the European Space Agency.
- In which project or tasks you were involved during your internship in EAC?
In EAC I worked in building a prototype for a project similar to the one we presented in the Odysseus contest, aiming to demonstrate a different way to increase the coefficient of performance of thermoelectric effects, allowing the manufacturing of space vehicles with a higher rate of efficiency. During my internship, I used the knowledge gained from the work I did for the Odysseus contest in some ESA experiments for developing a demonstrator; a rectangular box into which different devices used in space could be incorporated.
The project in which I worked is called “Thermal Energy Storage in planetary surfaces” and in my case the test application was the moon because I was part of ESA’s team working into a plan for building a village in the moon.
I used thermometric modules in order to produce electricity to supply the moon base. During my stage in EAC I build a prototype that is aimed to collect the heat from the Sun during the day in the moon and then will use this heat during the moon night – the night in the south pole of the Moon where ESA is planning to build the village lasts around 56 hours.
The idea is to collect this heat into a square prism full of regolith that will be heated during the moon day. As the regolith is not a good transmissior, we tried to ensure enough heat to produce electricity during the night by means of thermoelectric devices (peltier cells) that will surround the prism and will use the difference of temperature between the inside – heat regolith – and the outside – ambient lunar temperature during the night. In this way we can produce some electricity, but in order to improve it a little more, we also used a magnetic field to increase the efficiency of the thermoelectric devices.
- How would you describe your routine day in EAC?
It was never the same routine. The different things you are involved into and learn make every day different. The first two weeks in EAC I was reading papers, before starting preparing my demonstrator. The colleagues were interested in my work and often came with suggestions for papers suitable for this project. Soon, I figured that I needed more than four months for my project to be completed. The materials that are necessary for the preparation of the experiments required to be available in the lab for longer time, than I anticipated and they are expensive. Therefore I used my time in EAC to implement all the lab work and I will calibrate my thesis after the end of my internship.
- What is the most intriguing aspect of work in a Space Agency?
The actual work in a multinational environment like the European Astronaut Centre is really intriguing. The human interaction in EAC with all these amazing people makes you feel that something original exists. Quite soon, I realised that I could do things faster and a lot more that even myself expected. The people I met in EAC were an enormous source of mental power and encouragement.
- Do you think that the Odysseus internship at ESA was worthwhile?
I would say without hesitation that it is worthwhile and fulfilled all my expectations.
Yolanda has recently graduated from the Polytechnic University of Valencia with a degree in in Aerospace Engineering and apart from her passion for Space she is also actively participating in various social and cultural activities. She has just won a grant for young writers and she will attend an artistic residence in the Fundación Antonio Gala in Cordoba. She has worked for the programme Futurelab Europe, with the aim to put together stories about refugees women in Europe that will be published in a book and would be transferred to a theater play in order to raise awareness about the problems of women refugees. Since last May Yolanda is a member of the executive committee of the European Students Union.