Jan Wörner Blog | 25. August 2014 | posted by Jan Wörner | 1 Comment

'Rockets are tricky'

Die 30 Galileo-Satelliten
Credit: ESA-P. Carril
Artist's impression of the 30 Galileo satellites.

This is a quote from Elon Musk, a pioneer in the field of commercial space travel and founder of SpaceX. It expresses his feelings when, on 23 August 2014, SpaceX experienced an unsuccessful test launch. Equipment used for spaceflight is always very sophisticated technically, due to the complexity of the systems involved, the fact that they have to be deployed without much of a safety margin and the relative scarcity of options for real-time adjustments. Although rocket technology has been continuously and very successfully developed over the years, the aforementioned aspects imply that 'absolute certainty' is a pipe dream. This fact reared its head once again during the launch of two Galileo satellites on 22 August 2014. read more

Jan Wörner Blog | 14. March 2014 | posted by Jan Wörner | 1 Comment

SOFIA… a success story in jeopardy

SOFIA am Flughafen von Christchurch, Neuseeland

[Translated from the German original on 19 March 2014]

Since 2007, a converted Boeing 747 SP has been flying to look into the depths of space through an on-board telescope. This airborne observatory is a joint venture between the US space agency NASA and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). As part of the current budget statement for NASA, it was announced from Washington that it would not be possible to finance continued operations as of 2015. This would not only be a major blow for the scientists that have planned a great deal of interesting astronomical research for the coming years, but also for the relationship between NASA and DLR. read more

Jan Wörner Blog | 21. February 2014 | posted by Jan Wörner | 2 Comments

Joint declaration – Franco-German Ministerial Council

Paris bei Nacht

The Franco-German Ministerial Council met in Paris on 19 February 2014 to discuss a wide range of topics. Aviation, space, energy, transport and security were all mentioned in the joint declaration, once again demonstrating that DLR is working on areas of high political relevance. This is interesting and important, but in addition, concrete decisions with regard to research and development that will affect our work here at DLR were included in the joint declaration. read more

Jan Wörner Blog | 20. February 2014 | posted by Jan Wörner

Setting the course… to dare for more DLR!

Gegenstromprinzip (Grafik). Bild: CC-BY KönigsPanda.

The German federal government has been getting down to business, the New Year is well under way, and institutional and personal resolutions and claims have been set down at various New Year's receptions. For the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) these are to keep up the good work, continue making important contributions to national and global challenges, and to make the best possible use of the money entrusted to us by the taxpayers. All this comes at a time marked not only by political manoeuvring, but also by large-scale societal changes that influence our actions. read more

Jan Wörner Blog | 12. November 2013 | posted by Jan Wörner

Science, science management, science policy … part 3

Science needs flexibility if it is to produce innovation from creativity. At the same time, it is understandable that taxpayers demand sensible use of the funds they provide. Dispelling this apparent contradiction – individual 'liberty' versus societal expectations – is the primary task of those involved in the planning of research activities; that is, science managers. Political bodies have the task of formulating policy anywhere – but only there – where it can be defined on the basis of democratic legitimacy that is derived from elections. read more

Jan Wörner Blog | 15. October 2013 | posted by Jan Wörner | 2 Comments

Science, science management, science policy… Part 2

In the previous blog entry about various aspects of research and development, I attempted to cast some light on the different roles of science, science management and science policy. Let us assume for reasons of simplicity (and quite contrary to reality) that all protagonists involved behave in their respective fields of responsibility in such a way that, ultimately, science operates optimally. In a slightly liberal interpretation of what Saint-Exupéry wrote: 'Science is not there to foresee, but to enable.' (The original quote by Saint-Exupéry is: Your task is not to foresee the future, but to enable it.). But this is by no means the end of the journey in practical terms. read more

Jan Wörner Blog | 01. October 2013 | posted by Jan Wörner | 7 Comments

German federal parliamentary elections and their consequences

Das DLR-Gelände aus der Vogelperspektive

On 22 September 2013, two events significant to DLR took place – the German federal parliamentary elections and 'German Aerospace Day', held in Cologne. By opening up our research labs and offering a wide-ranging programme of events, we were able to, together with our partners, the European Space Agency (ESA), Cologne/Bonn Airport and the German Air Force, welcome tens of thousands of visitors to Cologne-Porz. It was great to see that the research being conducted at DLR was met with such an enthusiastic response on the part of the general public; even long lines did not discourage visitors, both young and old, from taking part. The federal parliamentary elections were held on the same day and, in addition to polling voters about their party preferences, it would have been interesting to find out where they stood on issues relating to research and development. read more

Jan Wörner Blog | 18. September 2013 | posted by Jan Wörner | 1 Comment

Science, science management and science policy…

Though none could claim seriously that research, development and science tip the balance in the outcome of elections, they nevertheless retain a fundamental significance: the insight we acquire today will serve tomorrow in the interests of safeguarding our country and our society as a whole. This is especially true for countries that, as a result of geographical, geological and other regional factors, focus on investing in 'minds' – because they have to. Thus, the development of research, development and science is relevant, and leads individuals to 'interesting' conclusions. But beware – in the words of Max Weber: "Academic life is a mad hazard," it is resistant to short-term planning! read more

Jan Wörner Blog | 05. June 2013 | posted by Jan Wörner | 3 Comments

The 'European' Pandora's Box

Unfortunately, the debate regarding the relationship between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Union (EU) continues, although the essential aspects have been clarified and the integration of ESA into the EU is off the table – not just for legal reasons. The myth of Pandora's Box tells the story of how Zeus gave Pandora a box with the instruction that it should be passed on to other people, but never be opened. However, Pandora opened the box, from which vices and bad habits escaped … read more

Jan Wörner Blog | 22. May 2013 | posted by Jan Wörner | 4 Comments

From a 'cold potato' to a 'dead horse' …

ESA und EU

Some time ago, in this blog, I wrote about a heated debate concerning a 'cold potato'; back then, I discussed the relationship between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Union (EU). Germany does not support the current efforts to integrate ESA into the EU. We consider an intergovernmental European Space Agency to be necessary for a sustainable way of working. Time has passed, and the 'cold potato' has become a 'dead horse'. It has been clear for some time that this integration is not only illogical, but also unworkable. read more