In Sweden’s space capital, right next door to Europe’s space elite, Sofia Larsson from Östersund is studying Space Engineering.
IT’S THE DAY BEFORE Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang makes his first spaceflight and at Luleå University of Technology’s space campus in Kiruna, a real event is planned with 600 specially invited researchers, students and teachers who are going to watch the night’s transmissions from Houston together. Christer’s spaceflight and the atmosphere on space campus that afternoon says a lot about the environment where Sofia Larsson and her fellow students on the Space Engineering programme spend their days. Here, in the award-winning glass building where students and Europe’s research elite share their lunchroom with representatives of the space industry, there is a unique study environment and an inspiring mix of people united by the idea of exploring “the great unknown”.
- My education is in a class of its own and I’m really happy with everything from our well-informed teachers to the study environment, the countryside and the mix of researchers, companies and students, says Sofia Larsson in answer to our question as to what she thinks is best about being a student on the Space Engineering programme.
GUEST LECTURES BY HIGHLY-QUALIFIED SPACE RESEARCHERS is an important part of the Space Engineering students’ education.
- We have very good guest lecturers, for example from the USA. We recently had a visit from the Karolinska Institute who gave a lecture on how spaceflights affect the human body; the muscles in the legs become weak after a period of weightlessness or decalcification of the bones may occur or the cranium thicken.
The concentration of international researchers at the Kiruna space campus is due to the city’s geographical location. It’s proximity to the North Pole and right on the edge of the polar wind provide the very best conditions for studying the Northern Lights or phenomena like the ozone layer problems. The researchers in Kiruna develop technology for satellites like the ESA’s Venus Express. Our students participate in real satellite, balloon and rocket experiments in development projects at Rymdbolaget and the Esrange rocket base.
SOFIA HAS CHOSEN TO SPECIALISE IN AERONAUTICS for her degree. Space has always interested her and in her final years at upper secondary school she did a major project on the Apollo missions to the moon. Next year she will be reading her specialisation courses in aeronautics and then she will do her degree thesis project at a company and then it will be time to be thinking about a career.
- I want to work in the aircraft industry or the space industry. It would be fun to be part of building an Airbus or a space shuttle. That combines the two – space and aircraft, she says.
Sofia shares a student corridor in the centre of the city with nine other space students and her one-year-old Jack Russell terrier Kecke. Despite the fact that their studies demand so much from the students, or perhaps for that very reason, they lead very rich social lives. For the spring term 2007, Sofia will be back on the university’s campus in Luleå and her flat on Vänortsvägen.
I’m glad I chose Space Engineering and Luleå University of Technology. The programme is unique in Sweden! And I’d never have met all these special people if I’d stayed at home in Östersund.
TEXT: ÅSA SVEDJEHOLM
PHOTO BY: ESA, PER PETTERSSON