In spite of being exhausted, we were jet-lagged and so ended up both being awake and checking Cal’s ATAR at 1am. Pleasingly it should be more than enough to get him into the University course he wants to pursue. In the way of these things we finally got back to sleep just in time for the alarm to wake us up at 8am. And getting up was important for today was the European Space Agency.
In contrast to the NASA facilities we saw in the States, the European Agency’s Operation Centre is not a tourist facility, so getting in had proved quite difficult some six months ago and I was keen to be there on time. In fact we got to Darmstadt, where ESOC is based, early enough to take a walk into the rather uninspiring main square and have a coffee.
ESOC was fascinating because it was all about Space, and from a slightly different angle to the NASA stuff we had seen. Our guide, and there was only us touring round, is married to one of the ESA engineers. She had a neat prepared script which rather came undone in the face of Callum’s deep knowledge. She was lovely though and rose to the occasion with more and different information.
ESOC is where they do mission control stuff for all the the Agency’s satellites, orbiters, and probes – the building and launch are done elsewhere. The nature of modern mission control means that in many ways ESOC resembles an ordinary office building with lots of modern computers – its just an ordinary office building where they do extraordinary stuff. The fact we were not allowed to take photos of almost anything wasn’t a huge loss, because photos of computers on tables are often less than inspiring. Regardless of the backdrop we really enjoyed the tour.
In the evening we walked down the river to the Frankfurt market square and the Christmas Market. The bright, warm lights against the backdrop of the church and the surrounding buildings are just beautiful. For the first time this year it really feels like Christmas. We almost had frankfurts for dinner on principle, but in the end opted for bratwurst instead; followed by some fabulous cinnamon crepes for desert.