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So I set out to make the best presentation I could. I tried to put myself “in their shoes”. I though back to the time when I was their age and though of the things that inspired me then and led me to where I am today. And while there are too many and too vast to put into a single presentation, I did my best and came with what I though was a pretty good presentation.
I practised a couple of times and ran it through some friends for feedback and we corrected the last details. The day finally came and I was feeling ready: ready to inspire. Little did I know what expected me…
Professor Willy Lameyer from Collège la Chatoire was the first to greet me and we did the normal tech checks and exchanged a few words. Everything was working fine. The students started coming into the room shortly after, and from there on I could see that this was going to be a great experience. You could see from the glow in their eyes and the timid smiles their curious and intrepid spirit.
They listen through the presentation with the most attention and curiosity a presented could ever ask for. It seemed as if every word I would say mattered the world to them. They never stopped during the presentation. They just listen carefully. And I reached the end of my presentation in its planned time. Still with quite some time for questions. With a smile on my face I said
“Now, I’m sure you have plenty of questions. I would be happy to answer to them”.
They paused for a second. They timidly looked at each other and at their professor. And then one shy hand rose… And then another. And question after question, their curiosity would increase. Their questions were more and more enthusiastic. The topics ranged from OeWF analog research, to my personal experiences in the suit and also to Mars characteristics.
“How similar is Mars’ atmosphere compared to Earth’s?”
“What about the ground? Is it similar?”
“Would it be possible grow a plant there?”
and so on. Each question showing a natural curiosity for these topics that they were discovering. And each question more and more insightful.
And it is this curious mind, this desire to learn and understand, that I am sure will help them succeed in the future (be it in space exploration, be it anything else). In fact, I can say I had set out to inspire these children. And in the process they ended up inspiring me. With their attentive and observing nature and with their yearning to learn, they gave me great motivation to keep working on what will be, one day, their world.
As I told them:
“I am happy to be working in paving the way for Mars exploration, for the future generations. For you. I believe that the first man or woman to walk on Mars is already born and he or she might be sitting in that exact classroom right now”.
And this is something I truly believed.
I cannot thank Professor Lameyer and his colleagues at Collège la Chatoire enough for this opportunity and for the great support provided during the teleconference, as well as for teaching and raising these children to be what they are today. It is a truly great and noble work they have done and made me realize even more the importance of the work our teachers and educators do, in raising the new generations.
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