Not just any week – THE WEEK!
This past week has been simply amazing. In my position as chairman, there are often intense experiences, and time and again I am especially impressed with the performance of our colleagues, who apply themselves to their job and hence to DLR with full commitment. I am quite used to having to take into account multiple dates, but this week was very special. Alexander Gerst return from the ISS, Rosetta and Philae, and discussions in preparation for the ESA Ministerial Council. Each subject alone offers enough material for a blog post.##markend##
It all began on Monday; in the early morning hours, I was able to follow the successful landing of a Soyuz capsule in the Kazakh steppe via a livestream. The first fright came after the landing: the parachute did not collapse as intended, the capsule tipped over and was dragged some distance across the ground. But just moments later, you could hear Alexander Gerst laughing. Things moved on to Prestwick, together with Thomas Reiter and Frank de Winne, on an ADAC air rescue aircraft with the required medical equipment. The NASA aircraft arrived in Prestwick with Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst on board. The exuberant welcome finally spelt an end to the worry for the German astronaut that had accompanied me for the past six months. He was in top form and spoke a lot about his experiences on board the ISS. during the flight. The subsequent appearances before the media and among smaller circles have also demonstrated his capabilities as an ambassador for spaceflight, especially manned spaceflight.
That happiness was still great when it was superseded by the excitement of Philae's landing manoeuvre on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Indeed, the first signal of touchdown arrived exactly on time, but the excitement was quickly dampened – more quickly than the touchdown – when it became clear that the harpoons had not been fired. Philae moved around for another two hours and travelled one kilometre back into space before touching down again. This impact was so strong that not all of the energy could be dissipated, so there was another hop; this one lasted seven minutes. Then, Philae remained on the surface of the comet. Pure excitement!
Congratulation messages came from all over the world, including Charlie Bolden:
Congratulations! I watched last night’s dramatic landing of Philae with great excitement and pride for our German partners. I know that DLR is leading the landing effort, as well as providing ROLIS, which took such amazing descent images of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko as Philae approached the surface. I also look forward to results from the acoustic sounding and seismic instruments (SESAME-CASSE), but recognize that Germany’s leadership in the landing mission has already firmly placed Europe and Germany again in the history books for achieving the audacious and unbelievable. Hopefully it will help provide additional momentum on the heels of Alexander’s successful ISS mission as you head toward the ESA Ministerial and we head toward our first flight of Orion. In the meantime, though, bravo to you and the German teams now on comet 67-P.
With Great Admiration!
Charles F. Bolden Jr.
Office of the Administrator
I would like to pass on this praise along with my own great admiration to the whole team inside and outside DLR, which made use of its unbelievable talents to bring about the success of the first ever landing of human technology on a comet in the Solar System (or the Universe, I'm not so sure…). This also includes the very positive impression from outside that was deeply felt by many people.
The third item of this week that I want to mention here involves the negotiations concerning the preparations for the ESA Ministerial Council. The first issue that had to be resolved was that the meeting had been planned to take place in parallel with the senate committee. Klaus Hamacher took charge of reporting to the committee, I was 'permitted' to 'make an appearance' on the political stage. The outcome of the meeting, which was preceded by many things, was good – not at all what I expected. Of course there is the sad news that the Ariane 5ME will not be developed. However, the new A62/A64 concept is superior and can be considered as an optimised A5ME. Significant steps towards its implementation were jointly agreed, and the concept was confirmed for 2016, provided that all the criteria are met. Then, the subject of the continuation and financing of the ISS was addressed, which was confirmed. Additional funds are still required to secure German involvement from an industrial and political perspective. And it is imperative that the joint solution that has been built on the basis of Franco-German friendship is defended against any attacks.