A political week - with a sad ending
DLR got quite a bit of political attention last week, with a steady parade of three Federal ministers, a State minister and two State secretaries. Such contacts are very important for DLR because – rather than give a quantitative balance in terms of "what are you doing with the taxpayers' money?" – we are able to show them the work carried out at our research sites. Unfortunately, the weekend ended sadly with the death of a great man: Neil Armstrong.
Annette Schavan (right) hands over the 'key' of the HALO research aircraft to Johann-Dietrich Wörner (left) and Andreas Wahner. Image: DLR, CC-BY.
On Monday, 20 August 2012, the Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan visited the DLR site in Oberpfaffenhofen to hand over the HALO research aircraft. After many years of intensive work, the Gulfstream G550 jet can now conduct the most demanding scientific missions for various research projects. Work on HALO was not confined to its conversion into an airborne research laboratory, but also included the necessary approval for the safe use of the aircraft. During the visit, the Minister also took the time to find out about other local projects such as those involving robotics and Earth observation.
On Wednesday 22 August 2012, and after a 'minister-free Tuesday', Lower Saxony's Minister for Economics Jörg Bode visited the DLR facility in Stade, where he inaugurated our new research autoclave. In the huge 'pressure cooker' (measuring 27 metres in length and with a diameter of 6.5 metres, and reaching temperatures of up to 420 degrees Celsius), our scientists can cure composite components at elevated pressures and temperatures. Our aim is to bridge the gap between laboratory tests and industrial manufacturing.
The German Federal Minister of Economics Philipp Rösler visited us one day later in Stuttgart. The special theme of his visit was the storage technology that is vital for the success of the energy transition. The minister got detailed information about our research in the field of synthetic alternative fuels as well as thermal and chemical storage systems to get an idea about the progress of our work. Wearing the DLR pin on his lapel, Minister Rösler 'became one of us' and showed great appreciation for our work.
Media attention during Philipp Rösler's visit. Image: DLR/Eppler, CC-BY.
On Friday we welcomed Germany's Federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger to our DLR site in Oberpfaffenhofen. In addition to general topics, the visit focused on the topic of defence and security. She was particularly interested in our involvement in matters relating to atmospheric research, the Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information (ZKI) was well as the support we provide to policy-decision making.
From left to right: Rainer Hange, member of FDP in the Starnberg district, Klaus Breil, member of the Bundestag and Energy policy spokesman for FDP in the Weilheim district, Markus Rapp, Head of the DLR Institute Atmospheric Physics, Germany's Federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, Rainer Sobek, local chairman of FDP in Krailling, Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Chairman of the DLR Executive Board. Image: DLR, CC-BY.
With Peter Hintze, the Federal Government Coordinator of German aerospace, we prepared the ESA ministerial conference and discussed the issue of aircraft noise. DLR plays a key role in this thanks to its extensive experience in both issues.
With the weekend came the sad news that Neil Armstrong had passed away. Armstrong undoubtedly deserves to be recognised for being the first human to set foot on another celestial body. But for him, what was most important was not that first step on the Moon, but rather the work behind the accomplishment. He constantly talked about the huge engineering feat that was the Moon landing. I should consider myself lucky because the two astronauts that I saw land on the Moon as a child, I got to meet in person. Neil Armstrong's charisma and accomplishments go beyond just spaceflight; they are a symbol and a challenge for us. When giving my condolences to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, I passed on these words:
“Neil Armstrong was and is for me a person who pioneered the path for exploration as a human heritage in all fields. His personal attitude of prioritising engineering beyond public attention is a guideline forever.”