“The Final Countdown” – Astronaut Esa Maurer flies to the International Space Station

He trained hard for years and learned how to extract teeth in an emergency. Now Matthias Maurer is out of space. Accompanied by anticipation and respect – and a stone from the house.

The basics in brief

  • From the East Coast to orbit: For the first time in three years, a German will fly into space again at the end of October (October 30) — and Matthias Maurer can barely wait for launch from Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida.

“There is so much we have yet to explore or understand. To discover this incredible adventure, space and everything that happens in it, is simply fascinating,” says Maurer, full of anticipation for his exploration mission on the ISS.

For about half a year, the astronaut from the European Space Agency (ESA) will live in the outpost of humanity. He also wants to be a good ambassador for the peoples of the earth 400 km away. “Anyone interested in space travel can look forward to new photos, videos and more space,” the Saarland native told dpa.

SpaceX Maurer: “Crew Dragon” from SpaceX

After liftoff with three of his American colleagues – two men and a woman – Maurer will be the 12th German in space and the fourth German on the International Space Station. He will be the first German to reach the flying laboratory with a “Crew Dragon” capsule. This is also a sign of a paradigm shift in space: Maurer’s ancestors traveled to the colossus of the universe in the Russian Soyuz capsules or the American space shuttle. On the other hand, the Maurer spaceship comes from the private company SpaceX owned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Maurer, 51, is the oldest German astronaut on first flight. The man with a PhD in materials science left more than 8,000 candidates behind after he applied for his ESA degree.

He trained for years on the journey to weightlessness, including in Moscow. His Russian is not as good as his English, he says, “Germany’s next man in space.” But if he goes into space as planned during his mission, he will be wearing a Russian spacesuit. Then I must speak Russian. I can switch to English, but I want to do it in Russian. ”

Equipped for everything

Overall, a very comprehensive training from scientist to technician to mechanic is excellent preparation, says Maurer. “If the worst comes to the worst, we need to be able to help our colleagues. This is why we also learn to clean the open wound, sew it up, stapl or glue it. In extreme cases, we can also repair a filling or extract a tooth.”

At about 28,000 kilometers per hour, the International Space Station races around the world in about 90 minutes. Astronauts are interested in the landscape of our planet. At night the cities sparkle as beacons of civilization, and during the day the oceans sparkle. Dozens of countries participate in the ISS – along with the United States and Russia, mainly Europe plus Japan and Canada. The research complex has been permanently inhabited by space travelers since 2000 and is considered a major technical achievement – despite its shortcomings. As the last German to date, Alexander Gerst traveled to the International Space Station in 2018.

During his mission called “The Cosmic Kiss”, Maurer will conduct more than 100 experiments, 36 of which will be with German participation. One is a fitness suit with built-in electrodes that supports muscle building with mild electrical impulses. “In some cases, scientists have invested several years preparing experiments for the International Space Station,” Maurer emphasizes. “I will do everything in my power to implement it well and successfully.”

How does he use his limited free time on board? A few days ago he published a list of 113 songs he would like to hear in space, such as “Starry Sky” by Hubert Kah or “The Final Countdown” for Europe. “I think it was good.”

A piece of home in your luggage

Maurer also carries red chalk from his homeland, the district of Obertal in Groenig, in his bags. These stones were used for painting – and the inhabitants of Oberthal used them to travel to the Mediterranean to do business. The ESA astronaut says the stone stands for knowledge transfer with other countries. “And that’s exactly what we’re doing today: We’re flying to the International Space Station as part of an international team, and Rötelstein should be a sign of what you can achieve when you tackle something big together.”

Maurer does not take his own clothes with him. “There are normal clothes. For example, astronauts have so many underwear that they can change them every two days, and astronauts change every three days.”

He wears a T-shirt one week, then wears it for exercise the following week. “For my six-month assignment, I have six pairs of pants—one a month. You have to be careful not to get dirty,” he says with a smile. There is no washing machine on the International Space Station. The crew packs soiled clothes and the like into an abandoned tanker, which is unpacked and burned.

Early in the morning on Saturday, October 30, Maurer travels to the workplace in space with NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburne, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron. Docking is expected to take place on Sunday. Maurer then also works with Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station.

“I speak many languages, I am creative as a scientist and enjoy taking pictures. I think those are the points that help make the team a success,” says the 51-year-old. And if he should come into the space frenzy? Then we’ll talk about it. We’re trained to tackle problems in time – before a real crisis develops.”

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