Very special envoys

Gravity! will have two special envoys at the Kourou Space Centre to tell us what is going on there for the launch of the LISAPathfinder mission. Follow here the comments the comments that they will send all week long.

Antoine Petiteau


Antoine Petiteau is Maître de Conférences at Paris Diderot University. He is leading the LISAPathfinder group at the Astroparticle and Cosmology laboratory.



Joseph Martino



Joseph Martino is a specialist of the data processing and analysis of LISAPathfinder. He works at the space data François Arago Centre of Astroparticle and Cosmology.



If you follow the online course Gravity! on Futurelearn, you have met both of them on the video dedicated to the LISAPathfinder mission (step 5.13).

November 30 : hangout live from the launchpad in Kourou

Pierre Binétruy and Volker Beckman invite you to participate to a hangout live from the Kourou Space Centre in French Guyana, where the LISAPathfinder satellite is waiting on the launchpad. This hangout will take place on November 30, at 17:00 GMT (18:00 Paris time, 14:00 Kourou time) for an hour.

The LISAPathfinder mission will test key technologies for the future gravitational wave observatory planned by the European Space Agency for the 2030s. The launch is scheduled on December 2 at 4:15 GMT.

A rare opportunity to feel the atmosphere of a space centre a few hours before a launch.

Our host for this event will be in Kourou Paul McNamara, ESA, project scientist of the LISAPathfinder mission.

paul_mcnamara“My name is Paul McNamara, and I am the LISA Pathfinder project scientist at the European Space Agency (ESA). I’ve been part of the LISA and LISA Pathfinder project since I started my PhD at the University of Glasgow in 1994. After my PhD,  I continued my research in spaceborne gravitational wave detection, at the University of Glasgow, before moving to the NASA – Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, USA. This was my first experience of working for a space agency. In 2005, I moved to ESA, where I have been the LISA Pathfinder project scientist ever since.

The project scientist’s job is to manage the scientific exploitation of the mission…to ensure that we get as much science return as possible. I also coordinate the various university teams who will be involved in the data analysis and operations of the science instrument.

In order to fulfil my responsibilities, I need to work closely with the engineering team at ESA,  the operations teams at both the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC), and European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), as well as the university groups involved in the mission.”


He will be accompanied by:

César García, ESA, project Manager of the LISAPathfinder mission

cesar_garcia“I am César García. I live in the Netherlands, where I moved from my native country, Spain. By education I am an aeronautical engineer, a space systems engineer and a MBA.

In the Netherlands I work at the European Space Agency as LISA Pathfinder project manager. As project manager, my job is to develop, launch, and perform the in-orbit operations until we have confidence the systems work (we call this in-orbit commissioning); and my responsibility is to do that while meeting the science, planning and budgetary requirements. This involves many people who make all that possible.”

Jon Harr, CNES, the Director of Operations,

Opérationnels à Jupiter 2, pendant chronologie VV05, le 22/06/2015.

“I am the Range Operations Director (DDO is the French Abbreviation) at CNES, which means that I am responsible for the operations conducted on the range to :

– prepare the spacecraft (payload) before its integration on the launcher,

– prepare all the means on the range necessary for launch operations : Security, ground safety, logistics, energy/air-con, telecom, optronics, time synchronization, telemetry (ground stations and real time processing systems), positioning (radars and real time processing systems). The telemetry ground station include several stations world-wide in order to track the launcher.

– finally, during the last part of the launch campaign, the DDO is responsible for the launch operations conducted from the Jupiter 2 control room. The DDO is not responsible for preparing and operating the launcher.”

Vicki Lonnon, Airbus D&S, Quality Insurance Engineer

vicki_lonnon“I’m Vicki Lonnon, from the UK.  I work for Airbus Defence & Space and for the last two and half years I have been the Quality Assurance Engineer for the LISA Pathfinder Spacecraft.  My role is within the Assembly Integration & Test team who are responsible for the putting together the spacecraft, testing it and ensuring that we have met the requirements of our customer, ESA.  As the Quality Assurance Engineer,  I get involved in all the different activities happening on the spacecraft, it is a great mix of hands on work with the flight hardware and office based work such as reviewing/writing procedures in advance of activities.”

Vicki is writing a personal blog on the test and launch campaign here.



The Google Hangout will be streamed live on Google Hangouts and Youtube for approximately 60 minutes, where you can follow the questions and answers live.

November 25 : celebrating 100 years of general relativity with some leading experts in the field

Pierre Binétruy and George Smoot invite you to participate to the hangout that celebrates November 25, 1915, the date where Albert Einstein delivered the last of a series of 4 ground-breaking articles presenting general relativity. This celebration will be broadcasted live from the historical Observatoire de Paris, starting at 17 :00 GMT.


The Google Hangout will be streamed live on Google Hangouts and Youtube for approximately 60 minutes, where you can follow the questions and answers live.


Our guests for this event will be:


Roger Blandford, a native of England, held a faculty position at Caltech since 1976 when, in 2003, he moved to Stanford University to become the first Director of the Kavli Institute of Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology. He is an internationally recognized expert in black hole astrophysics, cosmology, gravitational lensing, cosmic ray physics and compact stars.


karstenKarsten Danzmann is Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Hannover and Director of the Institute for Gravitational Physics at the Leibniz Universität Hannover. He is leading the eLISA consortium preparing the future gravitational wave observatory of the European Space Agency.



Gaby1Gabriela Gonzalez is a professor in the physics and astronomy department at Louisiana State University (LSU). She is working in the nearby Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Livingston, Louisiana and she has been the spokesperson of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration since 2011. If you want to know more about Gabriela, see here.



Thomas Hertog is an internationally renowned theoretical cosmologist and a close collaborator of Stephen Hawking. He is now professor at KULeuven, Belgium, where he leads a team that works around the interface of string theory and cosmology.



Google hangout with George Smoot and Pierre Binétruy

Nobel prize winner George Smoot and lead educator Pierre Binétruy will be answering your questions on Thursday November 19 at 17:00 GMT for an hour!

This will be the first of three exciting Google Hangouts being offered on the course Gravity!

Ask your questions!

Whether you follow the course or you are just interested by the physics of the Universe, you will have the opportunity to ask us your questions on general aspects of gravity, but also to interview George on his discovery of the fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background, through a live event called Google+ Hangouts on Air.

This Google Hangout will be streamed live on YouTube and Google+ Hangouts for approximately 60 minutes, where you can follow the questions and answers live.

We encourage you to ask your questions and we’ll select the most popular ones to answer during the Hangout.

There are several ways you can do this:

  • You will be able to send questions and comments before and during the event by submitting them in the Google Hangout Q&A chat window (if you have a Google account).
  • You can send us questions to our Twitter account @Gravity_Paris
  • If you already follow the course Gravity!, you may leave your questions in the discussion of step 3.11.

It is not too late to follow the online course Gravity of FutureLearn. You may register until December 6, but the sooner, the better! After this date, the course will only be accessible to the registered learners. 

GRAVITY, the art show

Scorgo_webA 3 day festival and an exhibition are organized in London by the Kinetica Museum in partnership with the Paris Centre for Cosmological Physics. They coincide with the launch of the online course Gravity! From the Big Bang to Black Holes and include presentations and a panel discussion on the future of art, with eminent artists and thinkers and the participation of George Smoot and Pierre Binétruy.

Hospital Club Oct.14th – Dec.14th 2015

70,000 registered students for the online course Gravity!

Already 70 000 registered students! A great success for the first English-speaking online course (MOOC) of Paris Diderot University on the mysteries of gravity: Big Bang, black holes, expansion of the universe …

Classes start on Monday 26 but learners can join until December 6, 2015 on the social learning platform FutureLearn,  the first UK-based provider of massive, open online courses.

Simon Nelson, Chief Executive of FutureLearn said: “I am delighted that Paris Diderot’s first course on FutureLearn has captivated such a large international audience. With nearly 70,000 learners, Gravity! is FutureLearn’s biggest science course to date. It’s my hope that we can continue enable more  French institutions to reach our global community of learners.”

Gravity! is for all those curious about the mysteries of the Universe and invites them to understand, without any prerequisite in physics, the foundations of Einstein’s theory that makes gravity “the engine of the Universe”

The course is free and registration is open to everyone.


See French press release about the success of Mooc Gravity!

Registration to the course Gravity! on Futurelearn begins!

Register to the course Gravity on Futurelearn!


About the course

What is gravity? This fundamental force is the common theme between concepts as intriguing as the Big Bang, black holes, dark energy, space-time, gravitational waves and the expansion of the Universe.If these concepts pique your interest, this free online course is for you. It doesn’t require any background in physics or mathematics, just a simple curiosity about the Universe and our place in it.

Mark the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s theory of relativity

The theory of gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, was published exactly 100 years ago. This course presents in a simple manner the main ideas behind this theory, before explaining why “gravity is the engine of the Universe.”

The basic notions are then introduced to understand why the Universe is in expansion. We’ll find out:

• why the further you look, the more distant in the past you look;
• how we can tell what happened just after the Big Bang;
• what are the dark components of the Universe;
• why are we so impatiently expecting the discovery of gravitational waves;
• and what happens when you cross the horizon of a black hole.

Learn with experts including a Nobel Prize-winning physicist

Over six weeks, you’ll learn with Pierre Binétruy, the Director of the Paris Centre for Cosmological Physics at Paris Diderot University, as well as the cosmologist, George Smoot, who will explain the discovery that earned him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2006.

The success certificates for the French version of the MOOC Gravité! are now being delivered. Congratulations to all!

The final numbers are now available from the FUN platform: 5675 registered learners, and 1291 certificates of success delivered, that is 23%. If one compares with those who completed the first week (2364), the success rate raises to 55%. An amazing number when one realizes that, in a typical MOOC, it is expected that only 10% learners get to the end. Congratulations to all for their participation!

See the page of the french MOOC Gravité!

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