ESA Day: space research in Debrecen in the focus of attention

On the ESA Day held at ATOMKI on Thursday, European Space Agency (ESA) staff members could take a look at the relevant instrument park of the University of Debrecen and the Nuclear Research Institute of Eötvös Loránd Kutatási Hálózat [Eötvös Loránd Research Network] as well as learn about the investigations related to space research conducted here. Hungary’s Ministerial Commissioner for Space Research Ms. Orsolya Ferencz also participated in the event.

“Space research is a top-priority area for the University of Debrecen, as space science research is carried out at the institution within the framework of the DE-Space program as part of the nationwide Thematic Excellence Program,” said László Csernoch, Vice Rector for Scientific Affairs of the University of Debrecen, at the press conference held before Thursday’s meeting.

“There are as many as six research groups in the Space Research Program of the University of Debrecen, currently working in the fields of radiation physics, physiology, nutrition, medical and diagnostic studies related to space travel, as well as isotopes and their applications and even climate change. They examine, among other things, cosmic radiation, the effect of microgravity on astronauts and the conditions of long-term stay in space and its consequences, as well as the possibilities of using and processing the huge amount of data gathered from space. The integrated knowledge of nearly fifty years of research at our institution and the latest research findings can definitely facilitate the technical feasibility of space travel,” said László Csernoch.
The Vice Rector also underlined the following: in September, an innovative nutrition and space health specialist training will be launched at the university within the framework of the UniSpace program, which 17 Hungarian higher education institutions have joined, including the University of Debrecen. In the postgraduate specialist training course, future experts in nutrition and health sciences will be trained, able to handle and solve problems associated with long space travel and surviving on exoplanets.

Director of Eötvös Loránd Research Network Nuclear Research Institute, Zsolt Dombrádi, elaborated on the role undertaken by ATOMKI, which operates as an terrestrial background institution for space research.

“ATOMKI is a national and European laboratory of particle accelerator-based sciences, where research in space physics, space chemistry and space biology is conducted. Our institute provides particle accelerator infrastructural services related to space research to its European partners in the field of exploring the formation of chemical elements and the energy production processes of stars, as well as for the investigation of chemical and biological processes taking place on the surface of space objects. All of this work is carried out within the framework of the European planetary research network,” explained the director of ATOMKI.

Zsolt Dombrádi also added that, within the framework of the national space strategy, ATOMKI’s task is to provide radiation technology knowledge and infrastructural background. The low-energy accelerators available at the institute are ideal for modeling the most important radiation types of the solar wind and interplanetary space, for checking the radiation tolerance of devices to be sent into space and for exploring the behavior of food, structural and biological materials essential for long-term space travel and the construction of lunar bases.

Hungary has been a full member of the organization European Space Agency since 2015, while the future guidelines of 75-year-old Hungarian space research are specified and determined by its space strategy adopted in 2021.

“The space sector is an economic, industrial, and security policy area that constitutes the basis of our civilization. Therefore, within the framework of Hungary’s space strategy, we have designated the directions along which we wish to develop the Hungarian space sector in top-priority flagship projects. As one of the largest knowledge centers and think tanks in our country, Debrecen enjoys a special status owing to its university and industrial background, as well as its broad and diverse experience in space research,” said Orsolya Ferencz, Ministerial Commissioner responsible for space research.

Orsolya Ferencz highlighted the fact that researchers from Debrecen are currently participating, among other things, in the program called HUNOR (Hungarian to Orbit), which is expected to delegate a Hungarian research astronaut to the International Space Station in 2024. Thus, the goal is for Debrecen to increase the part it plays in providing the scientific and technical background of research.

“In the cooperation between ESA, the University of Debrecen, ATOMKI and the city of Debrecen, it is important to find the points of departure through which we can continue to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our research. ESA thinks 10 to 20 years ahead during technological preparatory activities in order to ensure that the research should yield real practical results over time. For this, it is necessary for us to know the possibilities of our partners, the university and the research institute because, through our joint work, we can achieve decisive results for humanity,” said Marcos Bavdaz, on behalf of the delegation of the European Space Agency (ESA).

On the ESA Day, the visiting European experts gained an insight into the investigations and research projects of the University of Debrecen and ATOMKI related to space research in addition to having an overview of the currently available instrument park. Furthermore, they also discussed potential future channels of involvement in international programs and cooperation opportunities between space research in Debrecen and its European counterparts.

Press Center - ÉE