Launching a rocket, walking on Mars… What do students in space studies dream about?

Aiming for the moon doesn’t scare the students of the Montpellier University Space Center (Hérault) (CSUM). In this high-flying establishment, a pioneer in France in the construction of nanosatellites, students work to create real machines destined to be put into orbit. Last year, their fourth and fifth nanosatellites were successfully launched, aboard Europe’s Vega-C rocket.

In 2023, Robusta3A Méditerranée, a Cube Sat designed to anticipate episodes in the Cévennes, should be sent into space. Some 140 students have worked on the creation of this jewel of technology since 2013. But by embarking on such a special course, what are CSUM students dreaming of?

“Connecting work and passion”

Ezéchiel, a master’s student specializing in the development of space systems, has “always been attracted to space”. Younger, this apprentice, who left an engineering school to devote himself entirely to space, devoured books “on the Apollo missions and the conquest of space” and observed the stars and planets with a telescope. “I remember having made several visits to the Cité de l’Espace and having taken part in CNES activities [Centre national d’études spatiales], organized for the youngest,” he says. It was only later, explains Ezekiel, “that I understood that space was not inaccessible to me, and that I therefore decided to combine work and passion”.

Cléo, one of her classmates, also remembers having “always been interested in space”, “without ever thinking that I would one day be part of this environment”, she confides. Neither of them regrets having joined this establishment like no other. On the contrary. Cléo is enthusiastic about the “innovative space projects” of the University Space Center. As for Ezekiel, he dreams of experiencing “a rocket take-off”, “just like participating in the return of Man to the Moon and the first step on Mars”.

“I was afraid of not being up to it”

Morgane, she finished her course at the CSUM. When she started her studies in the establishment, after her engineering school, she admits that she “was a little afraid to get into space”. “I had the image of something extremely technical, which was not accessible to a person like me. I was afraid of not being up to it. And yet it is completely accessible. I said to myself “Why didn’t I do it before!” “Today, she dreams of” doing everything “, she smiles. Work on satellites, launchers, or on machines intended to be sent to other planets.

Two students make a nanosatellite. – N. Bonzom / Maxele Presse

Ali is one of the lucky Djiboutian students who have been selected by their country to be trained at the CSUM, in order to produce its first nanosatellite. Space, he has dreamed of for years. “When I was younger, in science class, when people talked to me about the planets, I was passionate about it,” he confides. But, unfortunately, I knew that in my country there were no such studies. I knew I had no choice, that I had to choose another field. He was finally able to realize his dream, in Montpellier, by participating in the creation of a nanosatellite intended to collect data on the climate.

“They eat, they drink and sleep space! »

Many of the new CSUM students are space enthusiasts, or crazy about astronomy, confides Laurent Dusseau, its director. “What interests them is to take part in an adventure”, to create real nanosatellites which will contribute to improving our lives, he confides. “Here, the project, they follow it from the idea to the launch. And that is great. Once they get into the gears, these are such exciting jobs that they eat, drink and sleep in space! In the evening, late, it’s beers and pizzas to watch the launches! For nothing in the world would they go elsewhere. »

At the CSUM, moreover, we debunk received ideas about space. First, to work in this sector, “you don’t have to have a Bac + 84, or get out of Harvard”, confides Laurent Dusseau. “When a couturier designs a wedding dress, there are also the little hands, who will sew the pearls, those who will cut the fabric. These are jobs with high added value. In space, it’s the same thing,” he explains. Another cliché: No, space is not a male job. “We are at parity, almost, at the CSU, at the level of our engineers and our technicians”, continues Laurent Dusseau. And space, it hires a lot: in France, there are 9,000 unfilled jobs in the sector. And at the CSU, there are only about ten students today, while the site could accommodate up to thirty. So, ready to hit the stars?

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