Happy Holidays! Cooperation with partners in the United States
Shortly before Christmas, the DLR office in Washington DC invites our partners to attend a Holiday reception. This way, various DLR's various US aerospace sector partners are invited to take a look back at the past year in a convivial atmosphere, and also to make plans for the future. This year, the reception occurred at the end of what proved to be a fascinating business trip, one which took me right across the US and gave me the opportunity to meet many of our partners there.
First, I flew from Frankfurt to Los Angeles, visited the Edwards Air Force Base near Palmdale, home to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) with which DLR maintains close links on many fundamental questions; propulsion technology being one example. The guided tour of the laboratory and of current research activities, which included work on electrical drives, was wrapped up by a discussion about ongoing and future cooperative projects.
From there, we moved on to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, in Pasadena. JPL is a very special institution because, in spite of its status as a NASA Field Center, it has a contractual relationship with NASA and is in fact managed and operated by the California Institute of Technology, Caltech for short, which employs the staff on payroll. Two current Moon missions to which DLR is willing to contribute, were presented. The Moonrise project is a particularly exciting one. Its aim is to land on the far-side of the Moon, collect samples and to bring these back to Earth. In parallel, JPL is working on a large number of other missions such as the Mars Science Laboratory, a new mission to the Red Planet, of which a very large and heavy rover is a key component.
On the German side (DLR and GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences), we have been working with JPL for a number of years successfully on the GRACE project (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment), investigating the Earth's gravitational field. Another interesting prospect is using German and American technology to develop a 'Tandem' L-band radar mission. The success of the TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X missions has made us a sought-after partner. Having said that, a question mark still hangs over the issue of financing on the German side. We are currently examining various options with other research centres in the Helmholtz Association (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ, GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences etc.)
The next stop in my visit was NASA's Ames Research Center, not far from San Francisco. Here too, there are various ongoing cooperative projects with DLR in aeronautics as well as space. A focal point of work at Ames is the scientific involvement in the SOFIA project. SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy) is being financed jointly by NASA and DLR; it involves a 2.7-metre telescope fitted inside a modified Boeing 747SP that carries out astronomical observations far above the interference of Earth's lower atmosphere. We were shown the impressive results of the first scientific flights, and discussed a range of ideas for future cooperation.
The last stop on my trip was Washington DC where, in addition to the signing of the framework agreement between NASA and DLR, and the signing of our membership to the virtual Lunar Science Institute (LSI), an episode of the 'Masters with Masters' series was recorded. At this event, I joined NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and moderator Ed Hoffman for a Q&A session. This was not just about shared ideas and projects but instead focused primarily on personal reflections which should shed light on our career, the joint path ahead, as well as on our actions and thoughts in this regard. You get a rough impression of that event here , and the complete transcript will be published in January on www.DLR.de/en and www.nasa.gov.
Before this event, I had the opportunity that morning to present German activities to representatives from the worlds of politics and business, particularly with regard to Germany's new Space Strategy at a Business Breakfast hosted by the Space Transportation Association in the United States House of Representatives. Following a press conference that afternoon at the DLR office in Washington, I attended our aforementioned DLR Holiday reception that evening with our US partners and friends, as well as with representatives of other countries (including Canada and Japan). A great atmosphere and conversations about where the future might take us made this a most memorable evening. Here, as in all preceding meetings, the presentation of Germany's new Space Strategy was the focal point of discussions around the space sector. Time and again, Germany's Space Strategy attracted great interest, and feedback was overwhelmingly favourable and encouraging.
I spent the last day of my trip attending meetings with the German Embassy and with representatives of the German Army to secure their support on a range of DLR’s activities in the US. All in all, a trip with many high points which we hope will help intensify our cooperation with our various partners in the US.