Run the solar system in 20 km
Launching rockets into space may be our usual business, but on October 9 Space Team Europe is on a whole different kind of starting line: at the Paris 20km space-themed running event. Nearly 150 colleagues from ESA, CNES, ArianeGroup and Arianespace join forces to highlight the power of collaboration, participating either in the in-person event or in the virtual experience in their hometown through Europe. Ambitions are high to complete the 20km race, but on Sunday Space Team Europe represents a much larger and more diverse community driven by the same vision and ambition for excellence – to excel as a leading and inspiring space agency.
Whether you’re taking part in the event yourself, competing virtually, planning your own 20k run this weekend, or cheering from the sidelines, this graphic imagines the route through Paris as a tower on the scale of the solar system. Full tour details below!
The solar system at 20 km
GO! We begin our journey to the center of our solar system with the Sun – let the power of the solar wind speed you off the starting line! Our ESA-led Solar Orbiter mission monitors our nearest star and the influence of space weather on our planet Earth.
This is a whirlwind tour of the inner planets of the solar system, as we have to squeeze Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars into the first mile. fly by planet Mercury only 260m away in the race for gravity assist like our joint ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission – arriving in orbit around this mysterious planet in 2025.
Then it’s off to Venus at 480 m, but dress for the weather: thick clouds and guaranteed high temperatures due to a runaway greenhouse effect, a stark warning of extreme climate change. Our future EnVision mission will give us the best insights yet into how Venus has evolved so differently from Earth.
Space exploration begins on your home planet Earth, 670 meters in our ladder run and a good time to check that you haven’t forgotten to turn on your sports watch! The European Galileo system has become the most accurate satellite navigation system in the world, delivering meter-scale accuracy to more than three billion users worldwide. Maybe you run on a treadmill today instead; astronauts aboard the International Space Station must run through space to preserve muscle and bone strength – using rubber bands to keep them from floating off the treadmill. ESA astronaut Tim Peake even ran a marathon in space, completing it in just 3 hours and 35 minutes. During that time, it traveled over 100,000 km as the International Space Station orbited our planet – quite the ultra!
A short bounce brings us to the Moon, where ESA and its international partners are preparing to carry out crewed missions, as well as payloads to prospect for water and other essential resources for permanent bases. We are also planning a constellation of telecommunications and navigation satellites around the Moon… soon you will also be able to track your lunar marathons!
March takes us to the 1 km marker. Think of the medal you get at the end of a race as we work on an unusual “souvenir”: the exploration of the red planet plans an ambitious project to bring samples from Mars back to Earth.
Watch out for falling rocks as we cruise through the asteroid belt between 1.5 and 2.1 km approximately. ESA is constantly monitoring the threat from asteroids, and soon the Hera mission will travel to the asteroid Dimorphos to study the results of the world’s first asteroid deflection test – essential to protect our planet from real future impact threats.
Don’t forget to hydrate yourself along the way. Jupiter 3.5km away. ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer will launch next year to probe the oceans of the planet’s icy moons and study their potential for habitability.
Cool off in the icy spray of Enceladus, a spouting geyser moon from Saturn 6.4 km away. This aquatic world has been studied by the international Cassini mission and could lend itself to an ambitious future concept of returning icy moon samples.
Hang on! It’s a long journey to the little explored reaches of the outer solar system, with Uranus about 13 km away. But thanks to powerful space observatories like Webb and Hubble, which orbit close to Earth, we can see the distant ice giants and their rings and moons with greater clarity than ever before.
Stellar work! We cross the finish line at 20 km to the furthest planet Neptune, but there is a whole universe to explore and discover. What will be your next inspiration?
Distances are approximate