He was once in space and now heads the European Astronaut Training Center in Cologne: Ernst Messerschmidt. In the current picture of science, he reveals how Europe's space travel continues. But if you want to know what's new on the International Space Station or how to become an astronaut, then read the chat interview with astronaut coach Ernst Messerschmid on 13 October. Working in weightlessness

Andreas Vogler: To my knowledge, one of the main problems of working in weightlessness is that you have to fixate yourself. Today, especially foot straps are used. Can you tell me if fine-motor work like the glovebox or robotic arm control can be done satisfactorily or is fixation closer to the body's center of gravity unsuitable? Ernst Messerschmid: You are right. A restraint system for fixing the middle of the body is better than the fixation over the shoe surfaces.

In a biological experiment that I did on the D1 Spacelab mission in 1985, and that required a fine tactile sense, in weightlessness I undercut even my best times on Earth. The difference can not be very big.

Radiation in space Sven Knuth: How strong is the radiation in space for the astronauts? For example, how much would the risk of cancer increase if you traveled 1000 days (for a trip to Mars)? We strong is the radiation in orbit (about in dr ISS)? Ernst Messerschmid: The radiation exposure depends on the position of the orbital plane relative to the equator and the height of the web. In the course of a year, the ISS traps a radiation dose in the body that is below the critical limit of 5 rem. Of course, the radiation risk is greater than the Earth's atmosphere in a Mars mission of up to 3 years larger. Special radiation protection devices, such as shelters behind the water tanks, will be combined with appropriate observations and attitude maneuvers to minimize the risk. Solar flares are especially dangerous. display

ISU student Nap: what are the chances for a completed ISU student to take part in a space mission? what further requirements do you need and with which space organization should you contact best?

Ernst Messerschmid: The same criteria apply to an ISU student as to other applicants: 1. Apply to the Space Agency responsible for him, Europeans at ESA, others at NASA, NASDA, RSA etc. 2. Criteria. See previous homepage of the ESA. 3. Get the right time or just send an application in advance. As I said, ESA is currently not planning a tender.

Number of astronauts

How many astronauts have the US sent to space, how many the Russians? Where do the Germans stand? Ernst Messerschmid: Astronauts are people who have at least once circled the earth in space.

So far, these have been almost 400.

Of these, about 240, 160 are active at NASA, 16 at ESA, about 30 in Russia, 8 in Japan, and the rest in Canada and some other countries.

Women in space

Swantje Middeldorff: It has already been asked who can train to become an astronaut and how many astronauts there are at the moment. I would like to know how many women are among them and if it is harder - or maybe even easier - for women to be selected.

Ernst Messerschmid: The proportion of women among the astronauts is just as in the occupations, about which you can become an astronaut on a successful application - unfortunately still very low. I estimate: about 10 percent. Unfortunately, Claudie André-Dehay is the only astronaut in the ESA astronaut team.

As girls and young women become more involved in engineering and natural sciences, the proportion of women among astronauts also increases.


Andre Spiegel: Your flight aboard the Challenger was the last with this shuttle before the catastrophe of STS-51L. Can you describe what was going on inside you when you heard about it? Ernst Messerschmid: In the flames or the impact on the water surface I lost good friends.

I shared an office with American teacher Christa McAuliffe to prepare our spaceflight missions.

I felt terrible. And it was hot and cold on my back that in the investigation of the Challenger catastrophe the analysis of our solid boosters showed that one of two gaskets per segmental connection was already burnt out and the outer one slightly scorched.

Fortunately, the analysis has drawn the right conclusions in terms of engineering, management, and shuttle flights seem to have become more secure. Nevertheless, the next disaster can happen the day after tomorrow. I estimate the risk of a deadly catastrophe for the astronauts in the range of about one percent. This is one to two orders of magnitude above what we tacitly accept in normal occupations on Earth, but certainly in the area of ​​the risk of test pilots, racers, etc.

Mars at the heart of the future?

Oliver Erckmann: What do you think about manned flights to Mars in general?

Will NASA and ESA also consider flights already manned in the project plans that are being prepared or revised?

NASA has built a Mars lander. Already completed and cost around $ 100 million. By giving up the current Mars missions and failures in the past, all missions to Mars have been stopped. This lander should not start according to NASA's will (to be found at http://www.savethemarslander.org/). How do you think about this lander. Should he start and fulfill his actual mission or stay on the ground.

How do you see the work of the Mars Society and what do you think about projects of the Mars Society (eg testing a Mars station "FMARS" in Devon Island)? Do you also see the Mars Society as a group (which also includes members of NASA, ESA and universities) which is important for the scientific basis of future space travel and also provides a solid foundation for general space travel? (according to http://www.marssociety.de and http://www.marssociety.org)

Ernst Messerschmid: If I interpret the omens in the US and in Europe correctly, a Moon-Mars initiative will be initiated from the time the Space Station is completed, ie 2005/6.

Perhaps this will first be part of a general call for critical technology participation. It may not be possible to launch a manned mission until a Kennedy-born politician, a society that does not want to see the benefits of tomorrow, explorers as part of their culture understand engineers and scientists with new ideas at the same time.

The Mars Society can make an important contribution to this.

As an optimist, I assume. the first human being will be on Mars even before the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing of a human being.


Andre Spiegel: Which was the most exciting moment during your mission? Which is the best? Ernst Messerschmid: The most exciting moment is of course the start. The nicest thing was when, after a week of successful work, we had another lap of honor around the earth, and at the moment the loading bay doors opened and I could throw one last look out onto the beautiful earth. At that moment I had my Walkman on my ears and listened to my favorite music. I almost melted.

Marcel Falk: What does an astronaut deserve? How much personal baggage may an astronaut take into space?

Ernst Messerschmid: The salaries of astronauts correspond to those of astronaut scientists and engineers. The salary naturally also depends on age and experience. At NASA, the annual salary is between $ 60000 and $ 120000, comparable to that of ESA astronauts.

Personal luggage is of the order of some 100 g. No flight without luggage check!

Even the letter my wife gave me had to consist of non-combustible material.

ISS living quarters

Andreas Vogler: What do you think of the new Zvesda housing module of the Russians? Are there any improvements in the area of ​​habitability to the MIR? A window in the crew quarter seems to me to be unfavorable, taking into account the radiation exposure.

What would be desirable from your experience for the development of future housing modules, or what did you consider in terms of habitability to be unsatisfactory?

Ernst Messerschmid: First of all, the noise level must be lowered.

If the radiation level does not approach the dangerous area, I would not like to do without a window.

Improvements in ergonomics and habitability, ie Human Factor Engineering, are still possible.

It will only be exciting when we develop transfer vehicles to Mars or residential modules on the lunar and Mars surfaces. Then we really need architects and interior decorators.

Theoreticians in Space Reinhard Zinsser: Does a theoretical physicist have the same chances of becoming an astronaut as an experimental scientist? Ernst Messerschmid: Experimentally oriented scientists and engineers are of course at an advantage. But I've also seen theoretical physicists eclipse many experimentalists in repairing their computers, homes, garden equipment, cars, and planes.

Head and hands, new German: cognitive, tactile and other sensory abilities, paired with experience in dealing with technically complex devices and software systems have to be proven.

Andre Spiegel: How is it in Earth orbit? Dear Mr Messerschmid, I have a few details that you can not find answers to on TV ...

- What was the most surprising for you during the D1 mission? Was there something you did not expect at all?

- Can you sleep in Earth orbit? Good or bad?

- In the MIR it should be very loud because of the ventilation - how loud is it actually in the Space Shuttle?

- When you compare orbital photos with the actual visuals - do you find the difference to be very large or not so significant?

Ernst Messerschmid Solar protons or secondary particles from the wall extend the retina of the eye and stimulate them to become luminous. When flying over the South Atlantic anomaly, this effect is strongest. I was not prepared for it and completely perplexed when I wanted to fall asleep on my first night and it remained bright despite closed eyes (persistence time 1-2 seconds per impact).

If I had not asked my pilot by intercom where he was curving around and he had given me the explanation of my flashlight thunderstorm in mind, I would probably never have fallen asleep.

Speaking of sleeping: You sleep in similar bunks as on ships. Only that one does not lie, but freely hovers around in it. Many of the astronauts tie themselves by rubber band with their sleeping bag to a wall. For reasons of space I had to do this as well - with the difference that my back was up.

Noise: In the MIR it is bearable to work, but too loud to sleep. Unfortunately, this is derived from the MIR base module, on 12.7. started service module also relatively loud. One is currently thinking about whether noisy fans, centrifuges, valves need to be replaced.

The Space Shuttle is like the other parts of the ISS: relatively quiet. The Earth seen from space is much more plastic and the proper motion also gives you a better feeling for the 3rd dimension.

In addition, of course, the horizon is much larger, especially if you look through each window in succession, for example, the shuttle out. You can not get such a fantastic impression with a good photo.

Most likely you can understand this overwhelming view of the home planet through an IMAX movie.

Waste of money? Ernst Messerschmid Space technology contributes to the observation of the weather, the atmosphere, the earth's surface and the oceans.

We learn more about our home planet and our sometimes negative impact on the environment (ozone hole, CO2 increase, El Nino phenomenon, slash-and-burn, environmental crime, etc.)

In the weightlessness of the space station important research results are achieved in areas such as physics, materials research, crystal growth, biology and medicine. It is conceivable, for example, that substitute tissue from its own tissue can be produced there only on a larger scale, or that the problem of osteoporosis, ie bone loss, especially in older women, is tracked down.

Half of the money spent each year of around € 70 billion (worldwide) is used for commercial purposes: telecommunications, direct-distribution TV broadcasting satellites, navigation. Deep black numbers are currently being written here, especially in the service sector (in the double-digit percentage range).

If we were to put all the rockets in the corner and switch off the satellites overnight, you'd be surprised what you're missing.

Rope tricks in space Wolfram Knapp: Rope-based satellite systems have sometimes been reported in the past as the "rope tricks in space" in which subsatellites were lowered on long ropes towards the earth. For a long time, however, it has become quiet about this fascinating technology. Has it been abandoned because of failed experiments or for other reasons, which would be a pity?

Ernst Messerschmid No, on the contrary. There are currently some planned minor trials with upper grades and possibly even with the old Mir station. The use of ropes to transmit forces, impulses, and stabilize is very interesting, but not unproblematic for very long ropes.

Imagine, a rope winds around the space station or else somehow lurches uncontrollably in the near-Earth space. Just as we make use of structures and many ropes activities on earth, so in the future we will deal with them in space.

For the rest, I would like to encourage you to stay "on the rope" with the release of the "rope trick in space".

When can I apply as an astronaut? Alex: I would like to know when there is a prospect of the ESA recruiting new astronauts and what conditions you have to fulfill to qualify for the job.

Ernst Messerschmid With the ESA's 16 astronauts, we can certainly make do with the next 5-10 years without recruiting astronauts.

Demanded experience and age across the Space Station era, ie until at least 2015, will certainly result in ESA deciding by the middle of the decade to carry out a new selection of astronauts across Europe.

National tenders will no longer exist due to the 1998 manned space activities in ESA.

If you would like to know more about the selection criteria, visit the following ESA homepage, which will surely tell you about an upcoming call for tenders:


More details can be found in my book Space Stations published 1999 by Springer Verlag. Acceleration Thomas: How much did you accelerate on your launches? How did you feel about it and what kind of acceleration can a human survive?

Ernst Messerschmid In the ascent phase 3 G (3x acceleration of gravity) for about 8 minutes at the Space Shuttle. When re-entering for a few minutes a maximum of 1.4 G.

For the older rockets, the acceleration was up to 4 G. For capsules, the astronauts had to endure up to 6 G in some cases.

Pilots of fighter jets must withstand 8-10 G, these are reduced by 2 G by anti-G pants.

The maximum load can be 20-30 G, depending on the direction, but only a maximum of 1 second.

As part of a self-experiment, I have already "flown" 3G in a centrifuge. Greetings to Prof. Messerschmidt and to the bdw team - Space belongs to the future!

Harald Zaun: Before all the lines of this chat disappear into the data nirvana, before everything written in "cyberspace" will be lost, I would like to conclude by wishing you all the best and, at the same time, thanking me once again for the constructive interview. There can be no doubt that space belongs to the future. Her quote "Human exploration is a kind of genetic imperative" speaks for itself. Everywhere "paradigm shifts" are emerging - everything is in transition - from me, that the acceptance and sensitivity of the population for the sometimes delicate topic of "space travel" is successively larger.

Ernst Messerschmid Hello Mr. Fence, I would like to combine my greetings from Stuttgart with my wish that you continue to report so positively and in detail about the manned space flight. Only to the extent that we succeed in spreading the meaning of their goals in the population will it be possible to fly to the moon or Mars next to or after the ISS.

END OF THE CHAT - to be continued!

Dear bdw forum participants,

The chat with Prof. Messerschmid is now over. Many thanks for the many interesting questions that he unfortunately could not answer all.

But you soon have another opportunity to talk to an astronaut!

On the 8th of November Dr. ULRICH WALTER is our guest in the bild der wissenschaft-Redaktion. He was in space for ten days in 1992 as a science astronaut on the D2 mission. Today he is program manager at IBM, book author and TV presenter.

In our November issue, which will hit the kiosks next Tuesday, he'll talk about the ways Earth can escape the fiery death of the sun when it comes to life in a billion or two billion years extinguished our planet.

Ask him about escaping from sun death, the future of space travel or how to live and work in outer space and how to become at home on Earth. Visit us on Wednesday, November 8, 2000, from 5 to 7 pm again live on the Internet: http://www.wissenschaft.de

* * *

Dear Professor Messerschmid,

Once again, our sincere thanks go to you. Thank you for your time, patience, and willingness to bring us all the fascination of space travel.

=== Rüdiger Vaas, bdw editor for astronomy and physics

© science.de

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