June 14, 2024

New crew for space travel - "It is important for Switzerland to have an ESA astronaut" - News

New crew for space travel – “It is important for Switzerland to have an ESA astronaut” – News

Switzerland has had a new astronaut in Marco Siber since Wednesday. It is trained by the European Space Agency, Esa. The former director of the International Institute for Space Sciences in Bern, Rudolf von Steiger, sees astronauts primarily as identifying figures for people.

Rudolf von Steiger

Space physicist

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Rudolf von Steiger served as Director of the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) in Bern for many years. There is research mainly on the formation of the sun. The results of this research are an important foundation for the complete history of the formation and development of the solar system.

SRF News: How important are astronauts to science, i.e. to space exploration?

Rudolf von Steiger: I see two aspects here. On the other hand, it is important for Switzerland to have an ESA astronaut because Switzerland is a founding member of the European Space Agency. This membership is of fundamental importance to Swiss science. We all remember our national hero Claude Nicollier who played and continues to play a very important role.

Astronauts just bother. They rock the space station and want to breathe and eat and drink.

However, I do not consider the fact that astronauts are in near-earth space or far from the moon to be of paramount importance to science. A lot of science is done with unmanned space probes. Only astronauts get in the way. They rock the space station and want to breathe and eat and drink. All this is legitimate, but it is of relatively little benefit to science and sometimes even hinders it. This is why I don’t think having astronauts in space is of much use to science.

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Can you go so far as to say that space science can do without astronauts?

This is an exaggeration. But I am inclined to accept this statement as true. Of course, Claude Nicollier fixed the space telescope. But for the cost of the shuttle missions Nicollier flew, you could have launched two, three, four telescopes into space. It is a cost-benefit calculation.

The Astronauts quickly became a crowd favorite. This is a boon for advertising.

This is absolutely true. Nicollier is a national hero and I am sure his successor will be as well. The goodwill generated by astronauts has not been previously determined. But the effect cannot be completely ruled out and is entirely legitimate.

So it’s about identifying people with astronauts and making science and space travel easier to understand or experience through them?

Totally Correct. I would like to be fully involved in that.

Astronauts are often seen as adventurers and scientists. This is not entirely true, is it? Above all, they are performers who do what scholars ask of them.

All of the first astronauts were test pilots. They were really adventurous. You have saved the missions thanks to your brave actions. In any case, an important role was played by the fact that they were people who were well versed in technology.

In the selection process, skills such as the ability to work in a team are of paramount importance.

That has changed a lot. The astronaut selection process focuses on very different skills. Above all, of course, the ability to work in a team, because it is not easy to live on the space station with six colleagues. Empathy and other skills also play a much larger role today. I wouldn’t say that women astronauts are just artists. You need to be able to do a lot independently. Today, the selection process focuses primarily on these qualities and less on suitability as an adventurer.

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The interview was conducted by Christian von Burg.