When Alexander Gerst conducts research on the International Space Station (ISS), he will carry out approximately 65 European experiments – Germany contributes to 41. We have selected 13 German experiments of the horizons mission, which exemplify the mission motto of 'Knowledge for Tomorrow' and will provide us with knowledge related to the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Basic experiments on the physics of ultra-cold atoms and Bose-Einstein condensates (BEC) will be carried out on the ISS in collaboration with NASA. For the first time, it will be possible to conduct long-term experiments on BECs. These can further advance state-of-the-art atom chip technology, miniaturised laser modules and mobile high-precision atomic clocks and sensors.
CIMON could be described as a 'flying brain' – an autonomous astronaut assistant. Equipped with artificial intelligence, this globally unique technology demonstration will support the work of astronauts on the ISS and will expedite advances in the fields of Industry 4.0, medicine and care as well as education.
Granules such as sand or grain are, besides liquids, the most processed goods in terms of quantity. However, so far, very little is known about their behaviour in industrial processes. For the processing of these bulk materials as well as the improvement of corresponding equipment, the behaviour of such moving granular media under microgravity is examined within the ‘Soft Matter
FLUMIAS is an innovative 3D fluorescence microscope for 'live-cell imaging' in space. For the first time, processes in living cells can be observed under microgravity in real time and changes can be visualised. In this way, a completely new insight into human tissues, cell cultures, microorganisms and plants can be gained, which, thanks to this technical progress, should also help people on Earth to improve the global health situation.
What influence does gravity have on gene regulation and the function of immune cells? This question should be answered by the experimental series 'Gene Control Prime', which will also investigate the genetic causes of immunodeficiency in microgravity. The findings may help to find new treatments for immune system disorders and new ways to fight bone atrophy (osteoporosis) on Earth.
ICARUS is a system for global tracking of animal migrations. Using miniaturised transmitters attached to animals, data on their migrations can be gathered and sent to the ISS. Registered in a database, this information will help to protect animals, to better understand the climate and the spread of disease, and to drive more sustainable agriculture.
The Immuno-2 experiment takes a holistic approach by combining biochemical and psychological analysis to examine stress-related weakening of the immune system in astronauts and people on Earth and to develop effective countermeasures. This knowledge is a prerequisite for the development of new preventive and therapeutic measures for use on astronauts as well as for seriously ill patients in intensive care.
MagVector/MFX-2 investigates the interactions of Earth’s magnetic field with a variable electrical conductor at high speed. The experiment can only be carried out on the ISS and offers astrophysics completely new simulation possibilities beyond just observation.
With METERON SUPVIS Justin, man and machine work hand in hand. From the ISS, astronauts use a tablet computer to conduct complex exploration tasks using the Rollin’ Justin robot, which the humanoid ‘work colleague’ will master largely independently at the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics – an important AI experiment for future space missions and industrial production.
The Myotones experiment is the first to monitor the basic biomechanical properties of the skeletal muscles with a non-invasive, portable device on board the ISS, in order to investigate changes to the muscular system due to lack of gravity. On Earth, this research will optimise rehabilitation and training programmes while enabling objective evaluation of the effectiveness in clinic and practice.
The first use of a hybrid life support system will be prepared during the horizons mission. The combination of a biological and a physical/chemical system paves the way for future exploration missions by further closing the resource cycle. Contributions will be made to air treatment in sealed environments and to food production in underprivileged but sunny regions on Earth.
In the plasma crystals experiment PK-4, cold plasmas containing particles are analysed. This experiment allows for processes that actually take place at the atomic level to become visible to the human eye. PK-4 serves as a versatile tool, enabling scientists to illuminate elementary physical processes and with that to facilitate new technological developments.
Properties of metal- and alloy melts such as viscosity, surface tension and crystal growth can be investigated in various sectors of the International Space Station (ISS). TRANSPARENT-1 will allow for the solidification of an organic model alloy to be tracked in situ for the first time. This should enable custom-made materials to be developed for more fuel-efficient propulsion systems, more powerful microelectronics and more effective casting processes.
'Earth, not plastic – breakfast without waste', 'We are saving our school pond', 'Fabric bags, not plastic' and '10,000 dominoes for an African rainforest' – these and other projects were conceived by primary school children for the school competition 'Earth Guardians' in 2014.
A loud noise echoes through the air, permeating the entire school building. The first radio waves from the International Space Station (ISS) arrive on the antenna on the roof of the school. Otherwise, there is absolute silence. Despite the several hundred students packed closely together, you could hear a pin drop.
'High-flyers' searched for and found – from 14 December 2016 to 28 February 2017 – student teams from all the universities in Germany had the opportunity to submit entries for a very special kind of competition organised by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Space Administration.
On 29 May 2017, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst announced the name of his second space mission – horizons – but that was not all. In addition to the logo and the experiments he will conduct on board the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018, he also used the press conference to present a very special object – a Time Capsule. It will join him on his journey into space.