For the first time, there are students from the districts of Faro and Beja among the finalists of the 2nd edition of Zero-G Portugal – Astronauta por um Dia, who will have the opportunity to perform a parabolic flight.
After four months of qualifying competitions, the initiative, promoted by the Portuguese Space Agency, will once again take 30 primary and secondary school students on a parabolic flight aboard the Airbus A310, from the French company Novespace.
O flight, departing on 3 September, from Air Base No 11, in Beja, will allow crew members to experience the feeling of zero gravity that astronauts feel in space.
Of the 30 selected participants, 20 are boys and 10 are girls. As for the origin of the finalists, the Portuguese Space Agency refers that this year's edition registered "a greater geographical representation" since, for the first time, there are finalists coming from the districts of Faro, Beja and also from the autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira. In addition, the regions of Lisbon, Santarém, Aveiro, Braga, Coimbra, Leiria, Braga, Porto and Setúbal will also be represented.
«The diversity of this year's finalists is very positive and exceeded expectations. We have, for the first time, candidates coming from regions that were not represented in last year's edition, as is the case of the islands. And it is also good to see that Beja, which, for the second year, hosts Zero-G Portugal – Astronauta por um Dia, will also be represented», points out Hugo Costa, executive director of the Portuguese Space Agency.
In the first phase of the second edition of the competition, 552 students applied and, as in the debut edition, in 2022, there were participants from all districts and autonomous regions.
«The competition grew, reached more students and more parts of the country. We reinforced the effort in terms of communication and dissemination of Zero-G Portugal – Astronauta por um Dia, which now translates into this diverse set of finalists», adds Hugo Costa.
In terms of distribution by years of schooling, 27 finalists are attending Secondary Education (14 are in the 10th grade and 13 in the 11th grade) and 3 are students in the 3rd cycle of Basic Education (two in the 9th grade and one in the 8th grade).
For Marta Gonçalves, manager of educational projects at the Portuguese Space Agency, «the strong presence of candidates from Secondary Education was expected», but it is nonetheless «a very positive indicator».
«If they want to enter Higher Education, these students will soon have to decide which course they want to take. This initiative opens horizons, shows them the possibilities not only in the areas of Science and Technology, but especially in Space, which goes far beyond STEM, and can serve as a springboard for a future in this sector », he says.
«Some finalists from last year told us that this whole adventure gave them certainty about their academic future. Therefore, we can say that what is experienced at Zero-G Portugal – Astronauta por um Dia has real and positive repercussions on the lives of these young people », he considers.
The 30 finalists of the initiative went through four elimination phases, in which various skills were tested.
The first stage, for which the 552 young people applied, evaluated the creativity of the competitors. For the second phase, 250 candidates advanced, who saw their spatial perception and memory put to the test. Of these, 125 young people were selected for the third phase, which tested their physical aptitudes.
For the fourth and final phase, 60 candidates were selected. In this test, the candidates' communication skills were evaluated by a jury composed of Eduardo Ferreira, vice-president of the Portuguese Space Agency, Ana Noronha, executive director of Ciência Viva, and Miguel Gonçalves, science communicator and commentator on the RTP section “ The Last Frontier”.
«These stages replicated the astronaut selection process of a space agency with an astronaut corps, with several valences under evaluation. In other words, we show that an astronaut, or any other professional in the sector, is made up of several skills», explains Hugo Costa.
The flight departs on the 3rd of September, but the 30 finalists will arrive in Beja earlier.
From the 31st of August, the Portuguese Space Agency will carry out activities and training for young candidates in the Alentejo city.
The Zero-G Portugal – Astronauta por um Dia initiative has the support of the Portuguese Air Force, the Municipality of Beja, Ciência Viva, the Faculty of Psychology Educational Sciences of the University of Porto and the Faculty of Human Motricity of the University of Lisbon .
Here is the list of students awarded, in the districts of Beja and Faro:
Beja – Margarida Mangorrinha Leal Guerreiro Maio (ES Diogo de Gouveia)
Faro – Gonçalo Oliveira da Mota (João de Deus Secondary School, Faro); Lara Morgana Cabrita Semião (Albufeira Secondary School); Martim Alves Freire (Bemposta Elementary and Secondary School, Portimão); Sara Beatriz Pinto Pico Filipe Silva (Gil Eanes Secondary School, Lagos).
Updated at 17:56 on the 10th of July, adding the list of names of the chosen students