Amongst the assembled guests watching the launch of Space Shuttle Columbia this morning (11:22 UT) was one lucky Norwegian student. 17-year-old Arnt Ove Fordal won a trip to experience the earth-shaking launch of the Space Shuttle marking the beginning of Hubble Servicing Mission 3B.

Arnt was invited by the European Space Agency to watch the launch from the VIP launch area at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. We talked to him in the early dawn hours in Florida as the morning light slowly strengthened and the countdown worked its way down towards the magic 00:00:00.

Question: You won the trip here to watch the launch in a competition to name an asteroid. How did you learn about the competition?

Arnt Ove Fordal: One afternoon in September 2001 I read an article in a Norwegian newspaper about a contest. I sent a suggestion and I won!

Q: You named the asteroid ‘Abel’. Why?

Arnt: I thought of Abel because in my class we had participated in a mathematics competition called KapAbel [CapAble] after the famous mathematician Niels H. Abel.

Q: How does it feel to have named an asteroid?

Arnt: It is a very special feeling to have named a km-sized rock hurling through space. My suggestion was selected among 200 entries in the competition so I also feel really lucky!

Q: So you have already made your ‘mark’ in Astronomy. What are your plans for the future?

Arnt: I have not decided what I will study when I am older, but I’m pretty sure I will study physics, and after that I might become a space scientist.

A buzz of excitement now runs through the crowd. Everyone’s attention is turned to the Space Shuttle as the countdown clock displays 00:00:00. We see a huge plume of smoke emerge from the Shuttle’s main engines as the Shuttle soars upwards. At first it moves slowly, but it quickly picks up speed. After about 15 seconds the sound makes it way across the wetlands at Kennedy Space Centre, and a thunderous roar reaches the viewing stands. We turn back to Arnt for his reaction. He looks really excited with a big grin on his face – just like a kid who has been given lots of candy.

Q: How did it feel to experience the launch of a Space Shuttle? Was it as you had expected?

Arnt: I can hardly describe it. Fantastic! Much better than I had expected. The biggest impression were the ten seconds just before launch and then the exact moment when they started the rockets and the sound reached us.

How Arnt won his trip to watch the launch

Last autumn the Norwegian Research Week (organized by the Research Council of Norway, Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics (University of Oslo) and Astrofestival) organized a competition for young people in Norway who could suggest a name for an asteroid. The winner was awarded a dream tour to Cape Canaveral to watch a Space Shuttle launch.

The purpose of the competition was to make more young people interested in science. As is the case for many western nations Norway has a scarcity of people with a science education.

The competition was approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the winner, Arnt Ove Fordal, was awarded the prize during Astrofestival 2001, the largest astronomical festival in Europe.

Arnt won because of the combination of a good name and the excellent reason for choosing this name. The name he submitted was ‘Abel’ after the well-known Norwegian mathematician Niels H. Abel (1802-1829). He was one of the best scientists and mathematicians to come from Norway.

Related Links

  • Hubble gets revitalised in new Servicing Mission for more and better science! [heic0202]
  • More information about the Servicing Mission
  • More on the Servicing Mission from NASA
  • Servicing Mission 3B: Hubble ready for more and better science