Category Archives: Fun stuff

Over 13 billion years after the Big Bang, Georges Lemaître heads to space

ATVEurope's space freighter ATV-5 is named after the founder of the Big Bang theory, Georges Lemaître (the theory of the origins of our universe, not the television show). Georges Lemaître was born in 1894 and developed a career as an astronomer, physics professor and Catholic priest.

Georges Lemaître was the first to suggest that the Universe had a definite beginning where all matter and energy were concentrated in one point – the theory of the Big Bang was born.

120 years after he was born and 13.82 billion years after our Universe began, Georges Lemaîtres will be honoured on the ATV bearing his name. In addition ATV Georges Lemaître will include in its cargo an image of Georges Lemaître that will be signed by the astronauts on the International Space Station. The photo will return to Earth as a testament to the scientist’s legacy.

Georges Lemaître continued to advance science throughout his life. He studied cosmic rays and worked on the three-body problem concerning the motion of three mutually -attracted bodies in space. He died in Louvain, Belgium, in 1966, at the age of 71.

ATV-1 rockets skyward

Sunday was the day: 9 March 2008. ATV-1 Jules Verne was carrying several original Jules Verne manuscripts, a fabulous recognition for the famous writer and thinker.



ATV-5 mission patches

ATV-5 mission patches available for order!

ATV-5 patch

ATV-5 patch

We have this info from, the official ESA partner for mission patch production:

For 1-4 ATV-5 patches

  • € 10.00 per patch (within Europe)
  • € 11,50 per patch (outside Europe)

Please pay via PayPal to:

If no PayPal account, please pay via bank transfer to the account number:


Name: Mr. A. kruiter City: Wildervank The Netherlands

Don't forget to include your name and address!! Need more than 4 patches? Please ask

3D virtual visits: inside and out of the International Space Station

First up - Outside!

This is pretty cool! And, in our humble opinion, ATV docking starting around the 2:40 point is the best part! :-)

Get an idea of what it feels like to see the International Space Station from the outside, as an astronaut on a spacewalk. Put your 3D glasses on to appreciate the size of humankind's orbital laboratory and watch a Soyuz spacecraft undock and a docking with ESA's supply spacecraft Automated Transfer Vehicle.

Watch both full screen for best effect!

Next - inside!

This, too, is pretty cool. And the ATV bit comes at toward the end, at 4:40!

Put your 3D glasses on for this virtual visit of the International Space Station's modules. Float through the space laboratories and connecting modules from the perspective of an astronaut.


How to cook a meteorite for travel to the International Space Station

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 space-grade silicone polymer
    • 1 meteorite

    Finished result

    Finished result

  • Tools: 
    • Spatula
    • Brush
    • Rotary grinder
    • Vacuum oven
  • Preheat settings:
    • Vacuum oven to 100°C at 0.01 mbar
    • Oven to 400°C

The voyage of our reconstituted art-meteorite took a significant step closer to space last week when it was prepared and coated to be space (re-)worthy. To recap the voyage so far: a piece of the Campo del Cielo meteorite that fell to Earth over 5000 years ago was bought by artist Katie Paterson, based in Berlin. She took a mould of her piece of space rock, melted down the meteorite and reformed an exact copy. Now the rock has a new destination: the International Space Station via transport ship ATV George Lemaître that will be launched next year.

Materials and electrical components laboratory at ESTEC, The Netherlands

Materials and electrical components laboratory at ESTEC, The Netherlands

Before the meteorite-art can be sent to Earth’s space laboratory however, it needs to be prepared for safety at ESA’s Materials Space Evaluation and Radiation Effects laboratories at ESTEC, The Netherlands.

On a fine Dutch morning, ESA’s Space Station Logistics Engineer Bram Bekooy and Materials and Processes expert Marika Orlandi inspected the meteorite one last time.

Bram Bekooy measuring the meteorite

Bram Bekooy measuring the meteorite

Its precise measurements and weight were recorded and a plan of action was decided upon: thorough cleaning to get rid of corrosion, vacuum treating the iron rock at 100°C for an hour, coating the piece of art in a protective silicone-based varnish and curing at 100°C.

The vacuum-cooking makes sure that any moisture on the meteorite’s surface is literally sucked off. Better to do this on Earth (where we can open the window to the laboratory and get some fresh air) rather than on the International Space Station where particles could build up and clog filters or even cause health problems for astronauts.

Catalin Fotea graciously agreed to help out on this project, providing a change of tasks from his usual role analysing and testing space-materials.

Cleaning Campo del Fiero

Cleaning Campo del Cielo


A paint job is only as good as its preparatory work, so rust and dirt must be carefully scraped off with a brush, space-worthy dental tools and a grinder. Once clean, blow away all remaining dust and rust with high-pressure air.

In the vacuum oven

In the vacuum oven

Water and other volatile materials must be dealt with during an hour’s treatment in the vacuum oven at 100°C.

While the meteorite is vacuum-cooked, prepare the coating. Mix one part hardener to nine parts space-grade silicone compound. Stir vigorously until a smooth opaque mix is achieved. Pop the mixture in a vacuum chamber to outgas. Repeat until a clear liquid is achieved. 

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Applying coating

Applying coating

Remove meteorite from vacuum oven after one hour and allow to cool.

Apply previously prepared silicone mixture thoroughly to all surfaces, nooks and crannies. Place coated meteorite in preheated oven for curing at 100°C for one hour, or alternatively leave at room temperature for a few days.



And there you have it!

After curing

After curing

A safe, space-certified meteorite. With Catalina’s help and equipment, we went through the process in less than half a day.

The meteorite was placed in a zip-lock bag and is on its way to Turin, Italy, for loading onto ATV-5.

Next destination: space… first via plane to Europe’s Space Port in French Guiana and then on to ATV-5 cargo’s module to the International Space Station.

Ready again for space

Ready again for space


ATV-4 re-entry animation

Many thanks to Vladimir Jankijevic, in Zurich, who sent in a neat animation made by stitching together the re-entry images we posted yesterday.

Vladimir wrote:

ESA's fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle, Albert Einstein, burnt up on 2 November at 12:04 GMT over an uninhabited area of the Pacific Ocean. This Animation is made from the photos from the ESA Flickr set.

ATV-4 reentry competition winners

After careful deliberation, we have chosen the winners for our re-entry competition: which ATV is seen in the film Gravity and what does the frog symbolise?

Thanks to all for sending in your answers, we definitely enjoyed reading them and were quite overwhelmed by the response!

We only have one special prize, however, so we have to be strict in deciding. Entries via ESA’s Friends of Facebook page were discounted, as the challenge clearly said to reply via the blog.

ATV-2 logo

ATV-2 logo

At ESA, we have had many lunch-time conversations about the film Gravity and the general consensus is that ATV Johannes Kepler, also known as ATV-2, is the spacecraft seen in the film.

In the movie, the logo on our favourite spacecraft is light blue. Chance Wen commented on Facebook: “And on top of that, the film was in early production around 2011, which coincides with the launch of ATV-2.”

This decision might come as a surprise, but editors' decision is final (we've argued this enough over lunch already... :-) .)

So the winner is:


One spacecraft and two aircraft!

An excellent shot of ATV-4 seen from above, shared via @lionelferra

Halloween hits ATV

Joining ESA's Swarm mission pumpkins, the ATV team at Toulouse prove themselves masterful pumpkin carvers as well as masterful spacecraft operators.

Morgane (from the ESA team at ATV-CC) writes: "Colleen, our American colleague, was missing the Halloween tradition, so we pulled out our knives and attacked some helpless vegetables to create these ATV pumpkins for the office."

Happy Halloween!  

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ATV reentry competition

Update: deadline is set for when ATV-4 reenters our atmosphere Saturday ~noon GMT. For people who cannot see Gravity yet: guess! (Hint: it is not the answer most people are giving.) 

The film Gravity features a short role for our very own ATV spacecraft. This is not the first time ATV has ‘starred’ in a Hollywood movie; the spacecraft’s acting career was launched by Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Of course ATV has also featured in many other videos including documentaries, educational videos, music videos (more music videos...) and newsclips.

Scene from Gravity. Credits: Warner Bros

Scene from Gravity. Credits: Warner Bros

So, while we wait for ATV Albert Einstein’s reentry this Saturday, another film-based competition is in order:

Which ATV appears in the film Gravity? Was it ATV-1, 2, 3, 4 or 5?

Enter your answer in the comments of this blog post including a short description of what you think the frog (seen at the end of the film) symbolises?

Naming the correct ATV spacecraft and supplying the best/funniest answer to the second question will earn you an official ATV rucksack. We have goodies for two runners up, too!

Editor’s note: This competition is unofficial and not coordinated with the producers of Gravity. We do not endorse this nor any other film, but it’s pretty darn entertaining! See the science behind Gravity.