Wilfred Ley - Klauss Wittmann - Willi Hallmann
Spaceflight - it is hard to imagine another field of engineering science operating so closely at the frontier of our technological capabilities, while at the same time drawing on the resources of so many diverse scientific disciplines. Developing and operating space systems means achieving the lowest possible structural mass at the highest levels of efficiency and reliability under extreme environmental conditions of temperature, radiation and vacuum.
Accordingly, the ability to develop and operate space systems is not only an indicator of the technical, scientific and industrial capacity of an individual country or an alliance of nations, but also a factor which significantly influences its economic competitiveness.
Space activities are a powerful propellant for technical innovation. Today satellite-based communication, navigation and weather forecasting are an integral part of daily life. Global monitoring of our world has become a necessity for studying climate development. Reconnaissance
satellites equipped with a wide variety of instruments are as essential for disaster management as they are for establishing an adequate security policy.
A multitude of probes are currently on a journey through outer space and will provide us with new insights in the area of physics and planetary evolution in our solar system. Space activities have already become a much larger part of our lives than many of us realize.
The development challenges described above are especially applicable for the development human space flight systems. There is hardly a terrestrial transport system, no research station, however remote, in which the lives of the people working there are as dependent on the proper functioning and precise interactions of so many subsystems as in a rocket or space station.
From July to December 2006, for almost six months, I had the opportunity to live and work together with an American and a Russian colleague on board the International Space Station. Although our primary task was scientific research in a variety of disciplines, the effort required of us to operate such a station was relatively high. Meanwhile the European Columbus Laboratory went into operation and when the crew is expanded to six people, as planned for mid 2009, it will be possible to considerably increase the capacity to conduct experiments on board the ISS. As far as the design of future human space flight systems is concerned, it will not only be possible to learn a great deal while living and working in the ISS; the station can also be used as a test environment for new technologies or improving existing ones. There is for example the need to improve methods for the analysis, diagnosis, maintenance and repair of on-board systems, the further development of regenerative life support systems, and the testing of innovative propulsion systems.
The major space agencies in West and East are taking the first steps to prepare for a return to the Moon. The question arises of what role Europe will play in these remarkable and inspiring projects. Drawing on its universities, research institutions and industrial capacity, Europe represented by the European Space Agency (ESA) could make a significant contribution to future human spaceflight.
Viewed against the background of Europe’s historical development with its wealth of explorers, researchers and scientists, I definitely regard space activities with all their diverse technical, scientific and industrial aspects as a cultural responsibility as well.
I wish all readers of this handbook a pleasurable and rewarding experience, that pinch of intuition which is so often necessary when crossing borders and gaining new insights, and, not least, a very generous portion of curiosity and enthusiasm for their space activities.