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Physical Sciences

14:30 - 16:30

Space provides ideal conditions to perform several scientific types of research in different fields: space telescopes take advantage of the lack of atmospheric perturbations; gravity-induced phenomena are studied in microgravity; space radiations are observed away from the Earth magnetic field, etc.


This session will provide an overview of space-enabled science via three topics investigated by a large number of scientists in Belgium: the surface of Mars, physical science in microgravity, and solar physics.


Introduction of the session 

Vladimir Pletser, Director of Space Training Operations, Blue Abyss


What happened to the water on Mars?

Veronique Dehant, Professor ROB & Extraordinary Professor,  UCL


Microgravity, an indispensable environment for physical science

Frank Dubois, Director of Microgravity Research Center, ULB

Andrei Vedernikov, Senior Researcher at Microgravity Research Center, ULB


Space weather: Sunny days ahead

David Berghmans, Head of Scientific Service 'Solar Physics & Space Weather', ROB


Q&A and Panel discussion


Vladimir Pletser

PhD, MSc, MEng. Director of Space Training Operations at Blue Abyss, a company in UK proposing a new approach for astronaut training. From 2016 - 2018 Visiting Professor and Scientific Adviser to the Technology and Engineering Centre for Space Utilization of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China, supporting Chinese Space Station and aircraft parabolic flight microgravity experiments. From 1985 until 2016, he was senior Physicist-Engineer at the European Space Research and Technology Centre of the European Space Agency, managing ISS microgravity payload development and ESA parabolic flight programme. He logged 7350 parabolas at 0g, Mars and Moon gravities on 12 airplanes (Guinness world record) during 90 campaigns on European, US and Russian aircraft, supervising 1000 experiments. Astronaut candidate for Belgium, he spent two months in training in 1995 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and was Astronaut Training Instructor for parabolic flights and Spacelab missions. He participated in three Mars mission simulation campaigns in the Arctic and the Utah Desert.

Director of Space Training Operations, Blue Abyss

Veronique Dehant

Véronique Dehant works at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, where she is Responsible for the Operational Directorate “Reference Systems and Planetary Science”. She is also Extraordinary Professor at the Université Catholique de Louvain. She is Academician (Royal Academy of Belgium; Science class) since 2010 and was awarded with several prizes, including the Descartes Prize of the European Union in 2003. In 2015, she has obtained a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant, with the project RotaNut: Rotation and Nutation of a wobbly Earth. She is Principal Investigator of the experience LaRa (Lander Radioscience) selected for the ExoMars 2020 mission.

Professor ROB & Extraordinary Professor, UCL

Frank Dubois

Frank holds a PhD in Applied Sciences, he is the director of the Microgravity Research Center (MRC) and a full professor at Chimie-Physique Dept EP, ULB. The MRC is involved in fundamental research and technological development. The research fields are mostly related to fluid physics while realization of microgravity experiments has led to the development of very accurate optical measurements, advanced data acquisition and image treatment technologies. Frank has seven patents in application of optical methods in fluid physics, medicine and metrology. The microgravity research is performed in a wide international collaboration, mostly within the European Space Agency programs on different platforms from parabolic flights to International Space Station.

Director of Microgravity Research Centre at ULB

Andrei Vedernikov

Andrei is a senior researcher and the head of the particle transport phenomena group at Microgravity Research Center (MRC), Chimie-Physique Dept EP ULB. He holds a PhD in physics and mathematics obtained at Moscow State University, Russia. Most of Andrei’s professional activities are related to microgravity. Before coming to Belgium, he worked at the Space Research Institute (IKI), Russia and at Moscow State University. He was a principal and co-investigator in twenty European Space Agency’s sounding rocket, parabolic flight and drop tower campaigns, in four experiments on soviet space stations. Currently, his team works for an international project on the experimental investigation of early stages of protoplanetary matter formation.

Senior Researcher at Microgravity Research Centre, ULB

David Berghmans

David Berghmans finished his PhD in Solar Physics at the KULeuven in 1997. Since then, he worked at the Royal Observatory of Belgium (Brussels) where he is currently head of the "Solar Physics and Space Weather" research group. He is author or co-author of more than 60 research papers in theoretical and observational studies of the physics of the solar corona.
He is known for the introduction of computer vision techniques in the field of solar data to analyse large amounts of coronal images. Together with colleagues, David Berghmans was at the origin of the space weather activities at the Royal Observatory of Belgium. He is winner of the 2013 "Marcel Nicolet" medaille for his efforts to structure the space weather community at an international level. He is currently preparing as Principal Investigator for the data analysis of the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager onboard the upcoming ESA Solar Orbiter mission.

Head of Scientific Service 'Solar Physics & Space Weather', Royal Observatory of Belgium

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