Did you know it's 38 years since the launch of INTASAT, the first Spanish satellite?

Nov 15, 2012

The Museum introduces exhibits from the European Space Agency in ‘Zero Gravity’
Did you know it's 38 years since the launch of INTASAT, the first Spanish satellite?

15 November 1974 is a milestone in Spain’s history, the country's baptism in space industry with the launch of INTASAT, the first Spanish satellite. Launched onto NASA’s rocket DELTA and with a two-year lifespan, INTASAT was to study electrons in the ionosphere through the so-called FARADAY effect (a disturbance phenomenon occurring on radio waves when they break through this atmosphere layer).


In the “Zero Gravity” exhibition you will find spectacular and previously unpublished space images together with a rundown of the current and future space missions of the European Space Agency (ESA) in fields such as observation of the Earth and meteorology, satellite communications and navigation; launchers, manned flights and space laboratories, and the exploration of the solar system and deep space. All this is illustrated with numerous photographs taken by the Hubble space telescope during its 20 years in orbit, which have allowed the capturing, among other things, of impressive images of stars, planets, and galaxies.


Part of the exhibition is devoted to ESA space rockets. The 1.4 scale models of the Ariane, Soyuz, and Vega allow the visitor to become familiar with the functions of these spacecraft, i.e. transporting satellites and freeing them in space or transferring astronauts and various materials from the Earth to the International Space Station (ISS).
An Ariane 5 launch campaign, for example, normally lasts some five weeks. During the first weeks the rocket is checked and prepared. A day before takeoff the spaceship is transported along rails to the launch pad, which is 12 kilometres from the Control Centre where the countdown takes place. The ascent through the atmosphere is monitored in great detail as this is one of the most critical and dangerous moments. Forty minutes later the spaceship is already in orbit.
The model of the artificial satellite Cluster is another exhibit that the public can get to know. It consists of four more or less equal parts resembling drums, which were given the amusing names of “Salsa”; “Samba”, “Rumba”, and “Tango” by ESA scientists. This satellite was launched in the year 2000 to study the phenomena of the aurora borealis and aurora australis, and has discovered that the Earth and other planets give off very powerful natural radio signals. If we can detect these emissions, those of our own planet are 10,000 times more intense than the most powerful military radio signals; this will make it easier for scientists to locate new planets in the immensity of the Universe.


Another major attraction of “Zero Gravity” is the projection room where the visitor can experience the feeling of flying through space. A succession of incredible images taken by the ESA missions will transport you on a voyage of space exploration so you can rediscover the Earth from this new perspective and let yourself be surrounded by the extraordinary beauty that space observation offers us.