A voyage through time and space

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.

Manufactured by trainees at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), the aluminium sphere will be sealed by Alexander Gerst on board the ISS and will not be opened until 50 years later, in 2068. Everyone was able to help select the content; the Project_4D promotion, a collaboration between the DLR_next youth portal and Stiftung Lesen (Reading Foundation), ran until 30 June 2017, inviting students from all over Germany to write down their wishes and visions for the future. In addition to this school promotion, the DLR social media channels also collected ‘Slices of Life’ – images from people's everyday lives. All of the submissions have been stored on a special, durable data carrier, an M-DISC in Blu-ray format. While traditional storage media like DVDs, CDs or flash drives are susceptible to ageing effects over years and decades, meaning that the data might become unreadable, M-DISC uses a recording technology that is immune to this digital 'forgetfulness'. The capsule will hold other items as well, in addition to the data carrier. They are intended to symbolise the different research areas at DLR. For instance, the capsule will contain a small paper aeroplane, sunflower seeds, a miniature toy car and meteorite fragments.

After returning to Earth, Alexander Gerst will donate the Time Capsule to the Stiftung Haus der Geschichte (House of History Foundation) in Bonn, where it will be kept and exhibited for 50 years. Who will open it in 2068 – and what impression will they acquire of humankind today?

Encouraging future generations

In addition to the other measures to encourage future generations, such as teaching materials, a student competition on environmental concerns and teacher workshops on space issues, the Time Capsule is a particular method of increasing interest in what are referred to as the MINT subjects (mathematics, informatics, natural sciences and technology) among young people and getting them enthusiastic about science and research.


Christoph Pawek

Ed­u­ca­tion, Out­reach
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Rutherfordstraße 2, 12489 Berlin