Tag Archives: ISS

“When you look down to earth you don’t see the borders”. German astronaut Dr. Reinhold Ewald visited Skoltech

IMG_1862Cosmonauts day is celebrated in Skoltech’s Space Center in an appropriate manner – with a lecture from an astronaut. Prof. Rupert Gerzer invited his friend and colleague Dr. Reinhold Ewald to tell his students about international space stations, and to share from his personal knowledge and experience, which includes facing the thing that no astronaut want to encounter.

Ewald received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from the University of Cologne in 1977 and has a Master of Science in Experimental Physics in 1983. He graduated in 1986 with a PhD in Physics and a minor degree in human physiology. In 1990, he was selected to the German astronaut team, training for the Mir ’92 mission, and In February 1997 he flew to the space station Mir with Soyuz TM-25, spending 20 days in space. During his time in Mir, Ewald was part of the crew that confronted one of the worst case scenarios in space – fire in the spacecraft (Watch the televised report below). Currently Ewald promotes the scientific achievements of the ESA research program on the International Space Station, working at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany. On 1 September 2015 he was appointed as Professor for Astronautics and Space Stations at the Institute of Spaceflight System at University of Stuttgart on secondment from ESA.

Ewald’s lecture was titled “The making of ISS”. He started his lecture with description of different types of space vehicles, their advantages and disadvantages. For example, the soyuz was very reliable but it crash-landed. The shuttles, on the other hand, have a short operational time, but they give a much more pleasant landing experience.

After that he turned to speak about the International Space Station (ISS), mentioning that its building followed the principals of gradually adding the different modules, as presented by the Russian building of the MIR space station. He stressed that space station maintenance is not possible without international cooperation, and showed the contribution of Russia, USA, Europe, Canada and Japan to the station.

An interesting demonstration of the power of international cooperation was the story of the American space shuttle program. After the Columbia tragedy the shuttle program was suspended, and Ewald said that this was a good example of the power of international cooperation – if one side is unable to perform, the other side steps in. Eventually NASA returned the shuttles to service, for the sole purpose of completing the ISS construction.

Dr. Reinhold Ewald on the left, with Skoltech Prof. Rupert Gerzer.

Dr. Reinhold Ewald on the left, with Skoltech Prof. Rupert Gerzer.

Toward the end, Ewald talked about the crew operations on board of the ISS. The first inhabitant of ISS was on October 2000, he mentioned, and ever since there’s human presence in space. Scientific researches on board it were possible since 2001. He described the way a mission is planned many months in advance and how the crew communicates with the ground crew. As a guest of Prof. Gerzer, who is an expert in aerospace medicine, the guest talked about the astronauts’ fitness, and how nowadays exercise on board is so advanced, that it counteracts the effects of weightlessness. One of the students asked how important is the human part, and the answer was “Have you seen the movie “Gravity”? No one watched it to see the robots operating, but to see Sandra Bullock and George Clooney operating. Humans are an essential element at the station”.

More interestingly, he told about his unique experience of dealing with fire on-board. When asked about the crew’s reaction to the fire he replied: “Every person has his task, and suddenly there is the hierarchy. The commander will give the order, and every member will do his part. For me it was reassuring that the others were doing their part and not panicking”.

IMG_1871After the lecture Ewald stayed to speak with students and answer some more questions. When asked about comradery between astronauts he replied: “I’m part of an organization called “the association of space explorers” and the idea is that the look down on earth unites us all, whether it’s a Saudi prince or Belgian guy, or Russian. When you look down to earth you don’t see the borders. The association was formed to spread this message. By now three quarters of the astronauts in the world, cosmonauts and even the Chinese taikonaut, are members of the association. So, there is something that ties us together. It’s not an elitist organization. We go out to schools and universities and explain them this point of view”.

To the Students of Skoltech Space Center he gives the next advice: “it’s good to do practical things, to see how space flight is done, the whole chain. In order to not end up in surprise, you really need to see how powerful space flight can be, what forces are there. Launching this rocket into space takes brute force. I know, I’ve seen it from the side and I sat on it”.

Come Fly With Him

Dr. Sergei K. Krikalev, cosmonaut and space explorer, during a talk with students  and faculty at Skoltech

Dr. Sergei K. Krikalev, cosmonaut and space explorer, during a talk with students and faculty at Skoltech

When Dr. Sergei K. Krikalev entered the lecture hall, a member of the audience turned to her friend and said in hushed voice: “here comes a legend”. This was not starry eyed hyperbole. There is ample evidence to support the choice of words.

As a cosmonaut, Krikalev completed six flights. He has spent more time in space than any other human: a total of 803 days, 9 hours, and 39 minutes aboard  MIR and the ISS. He was the first person ever to enter the International Space Station. A fluent English speaker, he is a living symbol of collaboration between superpowers. A quick web search yields images of him in a trademark NASA astronaut suit, embroidered with Russian and American flag patches. After he had retired from active duty as an astronaut in 2005, he held senior positions at the Russian space program. And on his free time he crisscrosses Russia, sharing his story with awestruck students – and their professors.

At the beginning of his Q &A session at Skoltech he directed a question at the audience.

“Should I assume you are technical experts or simply curious?”

“Both!”, a professor replied, extracting a smile out of the chiseled jawed spaceman. This turned out to be an honest response: queries from the crowd revealed varying degrees of experience and knowledge.

Bram Caplan, the university’s director of student affairs tested the veteran cosmonaut’s flexibility: “If you had 100 million dollars to invest in a space research project, what would you do with the money?”

Immediate response: “I’d try to get more money.” Then came a more thoughtful reply: “we need to build a new spacecraft and a space base that would support missions and supply parts for trips beyond what we’ve achieved so far “.

Saksupapchon Punyapat, a student from Thailand, smilingly observed that how questions about lessons learned always orbit around success. “But what have you learned from failure?”

Sergei Krikalev, cosmonaut and guest speaker at Skoltech, wears a training space suit at a NASA training in June 2004

Sergei Krikalev, cosmonaut and guest speaker at Skoltech, wears a training space suit during a NASA training in June 2004

“Let me say what I think is needed in order to have a better chance at achieving success. Know that your decisions and choices matter. and yes, you really do must study a lot. And if you want to join the space industry, you need to live in not the most comfortable conditions and learn to fly an aircraft and make sacrifices. Like I did. ”

Then there were more professional questions about vertical landing, the optimal number of crew members to be carried aboard a space vehicle, and the future challenges of design and engineering. And what about the differnce between government and private sectors’ involvement in space exploration?

“It has to be said: governments were there first,” Krikalev replied immediately and paused, as if resisting the temptation to say that ‘we were there first’.

He continued. “When things were risky and unsure and potentially very costly in terms of human lives and, less importantly but still crucially, money, the state took it upon itself to explore outer space. Only when things stabilized did the private sector join in. On the other hand ‘private’ means simplified and cheaper. There are less verification processes, and a better understanding of cost structures. As for Russia, we don’t see similar private activities here because our knowledge and procedures for defining costs are not as transparent as in the west. Then again, private western companies do not carry out manned missions. Not yet. The way we’re going to proceed from now in is to involve more private companies to solve parts of the missions, but not whole missions, especially not the risky ones – like a flight to Mars. When we don’t know how to enter the atmosphere or how to build a heat shield or how long a mission will take or how much it will cost – the government will shoulder all this risk.”

After 90 minutes and an ever growing stream of questions came the winning query: So how much would you pay to travel as a private space tourist?

“Hard to say, really. After all I got paid to fly to space.”

 

Dr. Sergei K. Krikalev, a legendary ISS cosmonaut, space researcher and rocket scientist was our guest at Skoltech. Krikalev chatted with students and faculty and took questions. Dr. Sergei K. Krikalev, a legendary ISS cosmonaut, space researcher and rocket scientist was our guest at Skoltech. Krikalev chatted with students and faculty and took questions. Dr. Sergei K. Krikalev, a legendary ISS cosmonaut, space researcher and rocket scientist was our guest at Skoltech. Krikalev chatted with students and faculty and took questions. Dr. Sergei K. Krikalev, a legendary ISS cosmonaut, space researcher and rocket scientist was our guest at Skoltech. Krikalev chatted with students and faculty and took questions. Dr. Sergei K. Krikalev, a legendary ISS cosmonaut, space researcher and rocket scientist was our guest at Skoltech. Krikalev chatted with students and faculty and took questions. Dr. Sergei K. Krikalev, a legendary ISS cosmonaut, space researcher and rocket scientist was our guest at Skoltech. Krikalev chatted with students and faculty and took questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) is a private graduate research university in Skolkovo, Russia, a suburb of Moscow. Established in 2011 in collaboration with MIT, Skoltech educates global leaders in innovation, advance scientific knowledge, and foster new technologies to address critical issues facing Russia and the world. Applying international research and educational models, the university integrates the best Russian scientific traditions with twenty-first century entrepreneurship and innovation.

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