Jean-Pierre Grootaerd is a retiree who volunteers at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Ghent University (Belgium) and the Public Observatory Armand Pien. He is also a member of the Eurospace Society, the association of astronaut Dirk Frimout who promotes space travel among young people.
Jean-Pierre Grootaerd is a self-made amateur astronomer with no specific scientific background. He has been interested in astronomy and space travel ever since he was a child. And the interest remained there throughout his life.
However, it was only at the age of 50 that he started following a telescope-building course at the working group ‘Kijkerbouw’ at the public observatory and university Ghent. In this context, he was introduced to the two Belgian astronauts Dirk Frimout and Frank De Winne. The latter is director of the European Centre for astronauts training in Cologne (Germany).
In 2015 he established "Stars Shine for Everyone" (SSVI), a program for children with disabilities and disadvantaged young people worldwide. SSVI launched a new project called Science4Girls to reach schools worldwide, targeting countries where sound education, especially for girls, is not evident. Naturally, refugee children also belong to this target group.
BRESSER underwrites SSVI and Science4Girls with a minimum of thirty 90/900 refracting telescopes every year. The self-assembly of these telescopes are made by the volunteers of the working group 'Kijkerbouw’. This project is supported by ESA and NASA astronauts and by the scientific community. Since 2017 it has been working with Universe Awareness of Leiden University .
In 2019, SSVI started a collaboration with the IAU (International Astronomical Union) during the celebration of its 100th anniversary. At the moment, SSVI is present in 67 countries around the world.
Since 2019, the SSVI and Science4Girls have received the support of three Nobel Prize winners: François Englert (Physics 2013), Gerard 't Hooft (physics 1999) and Ben Feringa (Chemistry 2016).In October 2019, the Podcast of Urban Astronomer Allen Versfeld, South Africa, appeared, with an interview with Grootaerd.