Sunday, August 9, 2015

Mars Rovers and the Last Moonwalker to Invade Poland in September

Credit: ERC

Poland will once again host the biggest Mars rover competition in Europe. This year, from Sept. 5 to 6, the second edition of the European Rover Challenge (ERC) is expected to get even more publicity as Harrison "Jack” Schmitt, a member of the Apollo 17 crew and the last man to walk on the Moon will be a special guest of the event. ERC will also give the participants a unique opportunity to talk with Andy Weir, the author of the best-selling book “The Martian”.

ERC will be held at the Regional Science & Technology Center in Podzamcze near Chęciny, Poland. More than 300 designers in 34 teams from 12 countries will participate in the contest. The teams will have to design and build a Martian rover, which will obtain the highest score in simulated navigational, geological and field Mars tasks. The competition will be accompanied by scientific and technological presentations and meetings with experts. For two days visitors will be able to take part in a real science festival, watch experiments and participate in workshops.

“The event is open to everyone who is passionate about space, science and new technologies, and the entry is free,” said Łukasz Wilczyński, the President of the European Space Foundation and the organizer of the ERC 2015.

Schmitt, the most famous special guest of the event, is a retired geologist, university professor, U.S. senator and a former NASA astronaut, who participated in the Apollo 17 mission - the last manned expedition to the moon. In 1972, he spent 3 days on the lunar surface. During a 22-hour walk, he managed to collect 110 kg of rock and soil samples.

“Schmitt is the first, and so far the only professional scientist that have left low-Earth orbit. Before going into space, he trained other astronauts,” Wilczyński said. “The Americans say that the chances of meeting someone who has been to the moon are one in 55 million. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, visited Poland 30 years ago. It was kind of a semiprivate visit. This time, Harrison Schmitt will meet with the general public during the European Mars Rovers Competition.”

Meetings will special guests will be taking place in between individual competitions. Apart from Schmitt, it will be possible to meet Gianfranco Visenti, head of Robotics Section of the European Space Agency, Giancarlo Genta, a well-known robotics specialist from the Polytechnic University of Turin, and Robert Zubrin, founder of The Mars Society.

During a video call, Andy Weir’s fans will be able to directly ask him about his work, plans for the future and how he managed to realize his childhood dreams and turn his interests into an international success. The film, based on his best-selling book, starring Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott, will hit U.S. theaters on Oct. 2.

The ERC event will also see a European debut for an American comic book series “Generation One - Children of Mars”. The authors, using the available scientific knowledge, created a story for children and teenagers about the first generation that was born and raised on Mars.

Polish Scorpio Team of the Wrocław University of Technology, the winners of the ERC 2014, during the contest. Credit: ERC
Polish Scorpio Team of the Wrocław University of Technology, the winners of the ERC 2014, during the contest. Credit: ERC

Last year’s edition of the event attracted more than 25,000 spectators. The ERC 2014 contest was won by Scorpio IV rover designed by Wrocław University of Technology in Poland.

The Polish Ministry of Economy took patronage over the event. The partners include the European Space Agency, Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, Mars Society Poland, WObit, ASTOR, ABM Space Education. ERC is organized by the European Space Foundation and the Regional Science-Technology Centre in Podzamcze. The producer of the event is Planet PR agency. is the official media patron of ERC.

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