What makes humans remarkable is the high level of creativity and self-reflection.. More than ever before, this cognitive faculty obliges us to act in a rational way. Never before has the planet been inhabited by more humans than today, and never before did mankind have to master greater, even global challenges. Never before has knowledge been more important than it is today. For without accurate knowledge the future cannot be planned or shaped. Space science and technology is an important source of such knowledge.
Shrinking population figures in Germany and Western Europe inevitably lead to a decline in what is called human capital. According to estimates of the Federal Office of Statistics, the German population will decline from 81.7 million in 2011 to about 65 million in 2060. Contrary to the global trend, the proportion of the German and European population has been decreasing for many years.
Also, Germany is a country with few mineral resources. As a factor of production they are now of minor importance. Since the 1970s therefore, work in Germany has increasingly been marked by its cognitive quality. This became evident when Germany turned into a service oriented economy.
In the knowledge society we live in today, everyone’s performance contributes to the overall future success of our country. Knowledge has become a key resource of the 21st century. Competition for the best brains is in progress.
This competition will be massively increasing over the next few years. It is only on the basis of excellent national capabilities that Germany will be able to hold on to its place in European co"operation and international competition as an eminent economy with a high standard of living, an intact social welfare system, and effective internal and external security. This indispensably requires systematic efforts to promote next"generation scientists.
This applies in particular to the space science, a sector essentially driven by curiosity. Spaceflight provides fresh insights into the nature and evolution of our Solar System and the entire Universe. Spaceflight permits an experimental verification of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity as well as producing new knowledge on the influence of gravity on biological, medical and physical mechanisms.
Microgravity research addresses questions in human medicine as well as in biology, physics, and materials science. Space research however also looks at our home planet itself. Exploring the Earth’s climate system, our atmosphere, tropical rainforests, oceans and poles is indispensable if we are to understand and protect our eco"system and ensure its survival.
Access to information anytime and anywhere has become one of the constants in our modern knowledge society. Doing business effectively in the age of globalisation is only possible on the basis of secure communication. Our modern media society opens the path to greater transparency of political systems and makes it less likely for a country to act in isolation.
Space"based infrastructure delivers high"quality data anywhere on Earth and at any time, thanks to satellite"assisted communication. Hence satellites make a very effective tool for the dissemination and application of knowledge.
But also the more trivial, practical applications of space science have become so widespread that we can no longer imagine our everyday life without them, be it the live coverage of socially relevant events, be it crisis management with the help of Earth observation satellites, or, in fact, the daily weather report. Thanks to space technology, a wide range of knowledge has come within our reach whether we are at home, on the move, at work or engaged in leisure activities.
Without satellite"assisted navigation systems used in logistics, private transport, leisure activities such as mountaineering or sailing, without any internet, radio and TV transponders in orbit, and without the existence of high"resolution satellite images to support urban planning, controlling forest fires and aiding forestry and agriculture, our lives would look vastly different.
A thought experiment illustrates the societal, economic and cultural influence of space technology in a dramatic manner "What if, for one day, all space applications were switched off, and if no astronauts had ever been in space doing research?" Spaceflight is a door"opener for new insights, a quick transfer of knowledge, and a constant re"examination of our world view.
"For knowledge itself is power" " the conclusion England’s philosopher Francis Bacon arrives at in the Age of Enlightenment " is more applicable today than ever before. People with up"to"date knowledge are at an advantage. Yet knowledge alone must not become an end in itself. People with knowledge have the responsibility to turn that knowledge into a benefit for society: Innovation.