Архив метки: ESA

“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”.

Space cooperation can bridge any political crisis, ESA head tells Skoltech students

The Moon Village – a permanent lunar base station – should be a truly international affair, and Russian villagers are more than welcome, European Space Agency head Johann-Dietrich Woerner told Skoltech professors and students on Friday during a Skype lecture devoted to his lunar dream.

Radiation shelters for residents of the Moon Village are planned to be made from lunar resources. Photo: ESA.

Radiation shelters for residents of the Moon Village are planned to be made from lunar resources. Photo: ESA.

The Moon Village is still very much a concept rather than a project at this stage, Woerner stressed, but nonetheless, the vision of the project is not without details.

The best location for the Moon Village is on the natural satellite’s South Pole, as there is water there and areas of permanent light, and the village structures will have to be made from the resources available on the moon, he said, speaking from Germany.

“The radiation there is very strong, so we will need to build structures, and they should not be sent from Earth. We should build them there using the materials available and 3D printing, producing radiation shelters for the astronauts. We cannot take all the stuff there – that’s in the past. We need to use the materials and resources that are there,” he emphasised.

The mission to the moon should combine human and robotic work, have multiple missions and purposes, and it should be a springboard for future deep space travel, said Woerner, a German civil engineer who has headed the agency since July 2015.

“Moon science is underdeveloped,” he said, adding that lunar tourism and commercial mining would also be possibilities offered by the Moon Village.

Stepping stone to Mars

While in recent months, missions to Mars – both real and imaginary – have been the focus of attention, the Moon Village would be a crucial first step toward making manned missions to Mars a reality, Woerner said.

“We are on our way to Mars right now with Russia, to look for life there,” he said, referring to ExoMars, a joint mission between the ESA and Roscosmos, Russia’s state space corporation, which launched an orbiter and lander from Baikonur on March 14 to collect data on the Martian atmosphere. “But it will take seven months to get there, and to come back, the whole journey is about two years,” he said.

“That’s OK for a robot, but think about humans: If someone becomes ill on their way to Mars, there’s no way to come home earlier. To go to the moon and back takes one week. We need to start with the moon, not go directly to Mars.

“America is planning its journey to Mars, but they know they can’t get there for 20-30 years. The Moon Village is the perfect stepping stone,” he said.

This week, Roscosmos said it planned to build its own research center on the moon by 2035, and said a location had already been chosen on the edge of a crater.

Lin Industrial, a private Russian space startup and resident company of the Skolkovo’s space cluster, said last year that it could build a lunar base for 550 million rubles ($8.2 million) – also at the moon’s South Pole.

The Moon Village structures will be made using 3D-printing technology, the ESA head expects. Photo: ESA.

The Moon Village structures will be made using 3D-printing technology, the ESA head expects. Photo: ESA.

Space above politics

But Woerner is adamant that the most important thing is that different countries should work together on one unified project.

“No one should do it alone: it should be a joint project – that’s why it’s a village,” he said.

“This is what space can do,” he said, showing a photo of German astronaut Alexander Gerst, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Surayev and U.S. astronaut Gregory Wiseman waiting to take off for the International Space Station in May 2014, even as relations between the countries had plummeted at the height of the Crimean crisis.

“Even in times of crisis, we try to bridge the crisis,” said Woerner.

“Yesterday, we had the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the U.S. to get to the moon. We know the story: it was not focused on content, but on prestige. Today we’re in a totally different world,” he said.

His call for international cooperation was echoed by the representative of the ESA in Moscow, Rene Pischel, who was present in the lecture theater at Skoltech.

There are two main fields of cooperation between Russia and ESA: joint experiments on the ISS, and the ExoMars mission that recently launched from Baikonur, he said, adding that cooperation in space was strong despite international political tensions on Earth.

“Everybody is really trying to keep space out of the political equation. One reason is that space, as we have heard, is a bridge that we should use even during critical situations. The other is that space programs are very long-term, so if we always reacted to short-term political crises or difficulties, we wouldn’t get anywhere,” said Pischel.

The ESA is made up of 22 member states plus Canada.

The lecture was organised by Skoltech’s Space Center as part of Professor Rupert Gerzer’s course on Human Spaceflight.

Text by Shura Collinson, Sk.ru