In the brochure: The Euro Space Center is a space show. Visitors are drawn into the origins of the universe in a real “Space Odyssey” with all kinds of special effects. They can also board a life-size American Space Shuttle and enjoy an amazing space show. Not in the brochure: The Euro Space Center consists of a “Space Odyssey” and a 5D film about mosquitoes in space. By paying extra, you can experience other side attractions such as a virtual reality space walk, training simulators and the planetarium. In the “Space Odyssey” you follow a trail through a permanent exhibition, led by an audio tour that takes you from room to room. In each of the rooms, the history and future of space travel come to life with the help of music, light and film.
In the brochure: The Euro Space Center is a space show. Visitors are drawn into the origins of the universe in a real “Space Odyssey” with all kinds of special effects. They can also board a life-size American Space Shuttle and enjoy an amazing space show.
Not in the brochure: The Euro Space Center consists of a “Space Odyssey” and a 5D film about mosquitoes in space. By paying extra, you can experience other side attractions such as a virtual reality space walk, training simulators and the planetarium. In the “Space Odyssey” you follow a trail through a permanent exhibition, led by an audio tour that takes you from room to room. In each of the rooms, the history and future of space travel come to life with the help of music, light and film.
Arnout: Let’s start with the positive aspects. It is a really beautiful building. Futuristic.
Olga: And it’s completely powered by solar energy.
Arnout: And, surprisingly enough, I thought the audio tour worked really well.
Olga: I was afraid we’d get this sticky thing, but it was a really good head set. It didn’t get in the way at all.
Arnout: It’s a good way of regulating the flow of people when it’s busy. A new group of people can start the Space Odyssey tour every twenty minutes.
Olga: I found it hilarious that the tour started to play regardless of what you were doing. I was in the toilet and the headset informed me that the great countdown had begun. Peeing has never been so spectacular! I should mention at this point that I usually hate audio tours. They are mostly really slow and soporific.
Arnout: God help you if you use audiotours.
Camilla: My problem with them is that they force you to experience something at a particular pace. They don’t allow you the time to really look at the stuff that has your interest. What I found good about this one is that it did give you the time to look around and signalled that. It said: “Have a look around and I’ll be back with you when it’s time to move on”. That felt nice.
Olga: It was also nice that it didn’t take too long. The music gave it a nice atmosphere too.
Arnout: The voice was really enthusiastic too.
Olga: I gather the English translation wasn’t all that great though.
Camilla: I think they used Google Translate.
Arnout: Another positive was the variety of media, from film to music to projections of planets. But of course, we’re not here for fancy media, we’re here for storytelling.
Olga: So that’s the big question today. Does the Euro Space Center have a story to tell? Let’s begin with their permanent exhibition, the “Space Odyssey”.
The Space Odyssey
Arnout: I think that the Space Odyssey has a story to tell. It’s just that it doesn’t tell it very well.
Olga: First a positive note here too. There is enough urgency in the story. You feel everywhere that these people are enormously passionate about space travel. Their enthusiasm is very contagious.
Arnout: That’s why some parts of the exhibition work so well. For example, in the second room where they try to get you to understand the scale of the universe by zooming out from our planet to the nearest galaxy. That made me feel very tiny and insignificant.
Olga: Camilla and I cried, but that was also because of the music.
Arnout: Children are encouraged to measure the distances on the screen to get an idea of the scale, but the rulers they had were completely unreadable in the dark, which was a shame. You couldn’t measure anything.
Olga: And although they’re enthusiastic, the exhibition lacks an overarching theme. It begins with a rather disjointed film about the myth of Icarus, which is perhaps not the best story to tell if you’re trying to get people enthusiastic about flight. After that there’s a room with scientific theories about the universe and a room about the fifty year history of space travel. That’s three serves of history which repeat many of the same things. It also feels quite arbitrary in the way it builds up. Why don’t you start with how people have always looked out to the universe and then tried to get there? How the attempts have developed and become modern space travel as we know it now, and finally, the future? The exhibition ends now with the present – what types of space technology can you find in your house? – which actually seems a bit strange.
Arnout: There is something about the future, but that comes beforehand. It’s about the possibility of building a space base on the moon.
Olga: I’d end there, it’s so fascinating. You get to see what missions are already planned for the future. One of them will be about how robots can build houses on the moon using 3D printing technology. Those are the sort of things that you really hope you will get to witness, which is a great feeling to finish with.
Arnout: Except that then you walk out of there and straight into the arms of aliens.
Olga: That was indeed rather strange. The rest of the exhibition is hyperrealistic, and then all of a sudden you find yourself in a strange, black-lit LSD passage full of freaky space monsters.
Arnout: Without any explanation at all. Just: bam. I’d scrap it.
Camilla: But there is an interesting connection in the subject between how we perceive the universe and what it would mean for us if there was life on another planet.
Olga: Yes of course, but I would make a separate topic of that, perhaps for children. Those are interesting questions to pose to children: Is there extra-terrestrial life? What does it look like?
Camilla: What did people believe in the past?
Olga: Yes indeed. Even just by putting all the science fiction films of the last century together you could get a fascinating image of what people thought about space.
Arnout: There’s something confusing in the middle part of the exhibition. After three rooms full of history, you arrive in a tunnel that’s meant to represent a space station. Nobody understood the intention of this.
Olga: I think it was confusing because we were told before the tour started that we would experience the effect of microgravity. So everyone was waiting for the doors to close and something spectacular to happen. It turned out that you had to imagine microgravity for yourself, with some silly music in the background.
Camilla: That’s really a shame, because there were little screens with movies made by astronauts that were actually quite cool. But everybody was too busy being confused.
Olga: Yes, the films were nice. People in space trying to comb their hair.
Camilla: Trying to use the toilet.
Arnout: I think that the room was also set up the wrong way, from the story perspective. You walk from the history room to the space station tunnel, and then to the training hall. Training, launch and then after that the space station – that would have been far more logical.
Olga: I think it was in particular an advertisement for their children’s camp. I thought that was a great shame. I would have liked to know more about what it’s like to be an astronaut, and what daily life on a space station involves. For example, I didn’t know that the ISS is permanently inhabited and that the astronauts there are switched every three months.
Arnout: And that their garbage, capsule and all, gets burnt up on re-entry into the atmosphere. But anyway, back to room three, which covered fifty years in space travel development. I really liked the film there, and the frame was also nice, a television that became more modern as time passed. But the clips they chose to give an idea of the era were a little strange. Nazis! Weapons and space race with Russia! The Song Festival!
Olga: I now know that Belgium once won the Song Festival. But that’s perhaps not quite the information you’re looking for from a space travel museum.
Camilla: Or the Challenger accident.
Olga: Yes, that was also a bit unfortunate. Everything explodes. Seven people die. The Red Devils win a football competition. In general, they could have made better choices throughout the whole film. There was a great big section all about European aviation, but it was far too detailed.
Arnout: Ariane 1 is launched, Ariane 2 is launched, Ariane 3 is launched…
Olga: The Red Devils go out for fries…
Arnout: Ariane 4 is launched, the Red Devils take part in the Song Festival, Ariane 5 is launched…
Olga: J’aime j’aime la vie!
“Fly me to the moon” (5d)
& the planetarium
Arnout: Basically, this 5D film fails to understand the concept of 5D.
Camilla: It’s meant as a multisensory experience right?
Arnout: Yes, only it doesn’t work.
Olga: This film made me think for a moment about the mother of this sort of attraction.
Olga: Star Tours, guys. At Disney. Basic knowledge. Anyway, there you are, sitting in a space ship and you don’t move much there either, but because you are seeing everything from a first person perspective, it really adds something. It’s as if you’re really flying around … and crash.
Arnout: And then there’s this animation film about untrained flies that get sent to the moon by mistake.
Olga: The main problem is the perspective, which changes constantly. Within five minutes you bounce from the perspective of the flies to that of the astronauts, and then to the standpoint of random onlookers at a distance. That destroys the 5D effect. For example, there’s a shot in which you see the rocket take off from a distance, at which point the seat moves to the right. That doesn’t make sense, unless you are supposed to imagine being a spectator who falls over?
Arnout: There are only two parts of the film that you view from the first person perspective, and those are the only two parts where the film works.
Olga: It’s also not a very good story, by the way.
Arnout: Yes, but it’s supposed to be for kids, right?
Olga: Even so. Make a story about an astronaut who is launched on a journey to the moon. That’s also a simple story, but if you experience it live, how awesome is that?
Arnout: And then, you can pay another €4 and visit the Planetarium, which was not exactly what I’d imagined a planetarium would be.
Olga: What did you expect then?
Arnout: If I think of a planetarium, I imagine an enormous dome above, and you can lean back and look up at the stars and planets. The Pole Star is here, that constellation is there. That sort of thing.
Olga: They have a dome. A very uncomfortable one, with a very uncomfortable headset.
Camilla: It was really heavy, wasn’t it?
Olga: Even though I have really big ears.
Arnout: And flat ones.
Olga: Okay, I have big, flat ears, but even so the audio-experience kept falling out.
Arnout: Luckily for me, the headset rested quite nicely on my stomach.
Olga: But anyway, what I most remember about the Planetarium is how uncomfortable it was to sit there, and how bad the film was.
Arnout: Not a terribly good film, and totally unsuitable for showing in a dome because it’s just a 2D film meant to be shown on a flat screen.
Olga: In a planetarium it shouldn’t matter where you sit, but this film definitely has a front and a back which means that half of the viewers are looking at the wrong part of the image.
Arnout: And the film is about … me, your friend the ice-block.
Olga: It’s a block of ice that watches “the human Eva Luna” from space, in the year 2020. That’s a terribly corny name for a start. Anyway, “the human Eva Luna” is searching for planets with water, because the presence of water means that there may also be life on those planets.
Arnout: But enough about Eva Luna. More about me, your friend the ice-block.
Olga: The things that the ice-block talks about are actually quite interesting, such as the birth of the universe and the way elements came from the stars to our planet.
Arnout: I just have the feeling that this doesn’t belong in a planetarium, but in a detailed exhibition.
Olga: Now you just get a cramp in your neck while learning about the elements.
Arnout: And the voice that tells the story is irritating. “We are going back to the human Eva Luna, in the country they call Patagonia.”
Olga: A film from the perspective of a block of ice ought to work. Only in this case, the film works on your nerves.
Arnout: I also think it doesn’t work because the block of ice doesn’t actually add anything. It doesn’t get discovered, it doesn’t land on the Earth, and it doesn’t change.
Olga: Exactly. If it had ultimately been found by Eva Luna on another planet, then you’d have had something of a story arc, but now it’s just a random ice-block in space. It’s pretty creepy if you think about it. Why is the ice-block so interested in Eva Luna? Are we all being stalked by space ice-blocks?
Arnout: “The human Eva Luna is looking for me. She loves me. She really loves me.”
Olga: “One day she’ll really get to know me and we’ll become friends on Facebook.”
Camilla: By the way, for a museum about space, there was surprisingly little information about our neighbour planets.
Arnout: The Planetarium would have been perfect for that.
Olga: I would have been interested in that. After all, it’s high school information that you’ve forgotten after twenty years.
Arnout: To summarise: This museum really lacks a single, fixed storyline.
Olga: And side-attractions for all the elements that don’t fit into that storyline.
Arnout: I’d also keep the side-attractions pretty basic and use them as intended. For example, I wouldn’t show a film in the Planetarium.
Olga: All in all, perhaps there was also a little too much media. After two hours I was all media’d out. And I say that as a professional film-lover. Does anyone want to add anything more?
Arnout: J’aime j’aime la vie?
Euro Space Center
Euro Space Center
Open every day from 10:00 to 17:00
Adult price: 12 euro
Kids’ price: 9 euro
(Moonwalk & planetarium cost extra)
1 rue Devant les Hêtres
B-6890 Transinne (Belgium)