Prepared for a mission to Mars

When former Engineering Physics student Charlotte Pouwels used to watch Star Trek with her dad, she became fascinated by space travel. “I started to ask technical questions that nobody could answer. So I decided to become an astronaut myself. In my research I mimic what it would be like to live on the moon or on Mars. I do this for example in Hawaii in an environment that somewhat resembles the moon.”

Charlotte is a researcher and analog astronaut at ESA. She is part of the research team EuroMoonMars and dreams about actually going into space. A mission to Mars is not a wild fantasy to her. She would sign up in a heartbeat. “As an analog astronaut I use the missions on Earth to prepare for the real job in space. That is my area of research. I write scientific articles and attend space conferences. I would not say no if I were given the opportunity to actually go into space.”

Similarities with space

As a 16-year-old Charlotte deliberately chose the Engineering Physics degree programme. “Unfortunately you cannot study Space Engineering at a university of applied sciences. But the Engineering Physics degree programme gave me a broad foundation. I was able to specialise in my own area of interest. My internships, minors and graduation thesis had a lot in common with space engineering.”

Space farmer

She did an internship with Wieger Wamelink. He is a world famous astrobiologist and space farmer. “Wieger conducts research on growing plants on a simulated moon or Mars surface. In my own graduation research I grew watercress in his radiation lab on simulated Mars soil. I exposed the plants to the high levels of radiation that have been measured on Mars. What are the biological effects of the radiation? It’s important to identify these effects because in 2030 we are planning a mission to Mars. And we want to grow our own vegetables there.”  

Hawaii expedition

Charlotte’s proudest accomplishment is her expedition to Hawaii. “For two weeks I worked there as an analog astronaut in a simulated moon environment, together with other young women who share the same passion for space engineering as I do. All of us conducted research 24/7 to work on a future in space. This also benefits the economy. You see all the time how space technology is later applied in regular industry. Think about navigation technology, body scans or a mattress that adapts to your body. All things that were originally developed for the space industry.”

Take a good look at yourself

“Are you 16 years old and are you looking for a degree programme that suits you? Then first discover what your passion is. Can’t answer any of the questions that are important to you? Then choose a degree programme that will give you the answers or the tools. If you do that, you will make a choice that closely matches your interests.”

Would you like to learn more about our Engineering Physics degree programme? Click on the degree programme page.