How SpaceX brings a German astronaut to the ISS

Workplace with a beautiful view: a view of our blue planet from the ISS. – Image: Paopano / stock.adobe.com

After years of training, the start into space is getting closer and closer. Another two months, then astronaut Matthias Maurer should take off for the International Space Station (ISS). If everything goes according to plan, the Saarland native will be the twelfth German after his start from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida be in space – and the fourth German on the ISS.

“I’m of course very happy that it will finally start. I’ve been working for a few years to finally fly into space and I believe that I won’t be excited until I’m really on the launch pad in the capsule,” said he scheduled to start on October 31st.

Maurer will be the first German to get to the ISS in SpaceX’s “Crew Dragon” spaceship. In the flying laboratory, at an altitude of around 400 kilometers, he will carry out numerous international experiments on behalf of researchers on Earth – in weightlessness. As a trained materials scientist, he has a particular focus on: Activities to develop new materials, but also solutions for life sciences and physical experiments.

Flight into space: what astronaut Maurer is particularly looking forward to

What is the 51-year-old looking forward to most? “I hope that I will be able to enjoy the view of our beautiful earth very soon after my arrival. I will then go on a 90-minute trip around the world, so to speak. I imagine this moment to be incredible. Every time I just think about it, I already have goosebumps. ” The ISS takes around 90 minutes to circle the earth once.

Maurer is well prepared for the expected six months in space. In 2015 he joined the astronaut corps of the European space agency Esa and has been training for his first space flight ever since. This included a 16-day underwater mission, geological field training and survival training on the high seas. But he has also trained tricks on how to keep his body fit in space – and selected meals for the time in near-earth orbit.

Homemade yogurt in space

“Eating is extremely important in order to stay in a good mood,” says Maurer. The food mostly comes in cans or in bags, with dry food you have to add water. He prefers the thermo-stabilized dishes to the dried ones, says Maurer. And: For his mission, he is planning to make yogurt in space himself. “But I’m not so sure yet whether this will work.”

Maurer has just completed training in Houston for a possible field deployment in space. Now it’s back to California to practice at SpaceX. Then there is a short vacation at home on the program before going back to the USA. Quarantine is announced two weeks before the start.

Maurer’s mission comes at a time of uncertainty about the future of the human outpost. Russia has recently shown little interest in continuing to operate the more than 20-year-old colossus in the cosmos. However, Moscow recently sent a new research module to the ISS. Jan Wörner, Europe’s long-time head of space, sees this as a sign that the sky laboratory will be used for a longer period of time. Some see commercialization as a future perspective for the ISS. There are said to be two visits from space tourists during Maurer’s mission.

When will the first German female astronaut fly to the ISS?

And what about German space travel? Actually very good, says astronaut Alexander Gerst in a video from the federal government. “We are at the forefront at eye level.” Gerst was twice on the ISS and is considered a candidate for a moon flight.

So far there has not been a German astronaut. That will change, thinks spaceman Thomas Reiter, in 2006 the first German on the ISS. “The more women participate in an astronaut selection process, the greater the likelihood of making it to the final round.”

NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron will set off with Maurer in autumn. About 35 experiments are planned Germany and many international attempts. The engineer Maurer, who has a doctorate in materials science, may also go out into space for a field trip.

It is the Esa astronaut’s first mission, which Maurer called the “Cosmic Kiss”. The name is a “declaration of love to space” and the connection that the space station establishes between humanity and the cosmos. “Already 4000 years ago people were enthusiastic about space.”

Maurer’s home community in Saarland is excited. “The tension increases, the joy increases. Yes, we are extremely proud,” says the mayor of Oberthal, Stephan Rausch. Large banners will be set up at the entrances to the town, pointing to Maurer and his mission. In addition, a “take off” event is planned for October 31st. How exactly this will look still has to be planned. Maurer grew up in the Oberthal district of Gronig with around 1,300 inhabitants.

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