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15.013 When some missions to the moon would have taken place a little earlier or later, the crews would not have survived it.

 

Der Tagesspiegel
Raumfahrt. 20.09.2018
Der Tagesspiegel When some missions to the moon would have taken place a little earlier or later, the crews would not have survived it.

The planet researcher Tilman Spohn speaks about nightmare like missions and the next aims of mankind in the universe.

Professor Spohn, the billionaire Elon Musk wants to send men to the moon. What do you think about that?

That will come so. That does not necessarily get science any further, but the striving of men to broaden his limits is there. Who has the money, will also do it.

Which planet would then be the next candidate for manned space travel?

Mars. The greatest problem there is no technical, but a medical one: How do I manage to bring the people there and back again? The time windows for space travel, in which the radiation straining is rather acceptable, are relatively small. Today we know when some missions to the moon would have taken place a little earlier or later, the crews would not have survived it. Today one knows the sun activities and consequently the radiation straining much better. For that reason one is more careful with the planning of manned space travels.

On the other hand there are numerous unmanned projects in the coming years: "Insight" is to explore the interior of Mars, the new space telescopes Cheops and Plato look for life outside of the solar system and already in October the Esa probe "BepiColombo" starts to Mercury. Is the planet research in peak form?

Yes, but there is also some coincidence at the same time. For some of these missions we wait already for a long time. "Insight" has two years delay and "BepiColombo" was even postponed for one decade. I have accompanied the mission my whole career, in different functions. I even had once a password for my computer, which was based on a starting date of 2009. BePi was from time to time a nightmare.

Why did it take so long?

One reason was the equipment. Mercury is the planet closest to the sun. During the day up to 430 degrees Celsius are there, at night minus 170. The equipment must stand these conditions. One problem was for a long time that the solar cells have not properly worked with these temperatures and the high radiation strain. Altogether we will bring two orbiters near mercury. But none of them will land. To be able to land securely one would need so much equipment that there would be no more space for measuring instruments.

Which knowledge do you hope for?

Mercury interests us particularly as planet of the extremes: the temperatures, the radiation . . . In addition it has a strange chemistry and contains much more iron than the other planets. There are different hypotheses, how mercury has become so, and all have to do with processes in the early phase of the solar system. When it would succeed to find out more about Mercury, we could understand better, how our solar system has come into being.

How can one discover such exo-planets at all?

With large telescopes. Of some planets we know the mass, of others the radius. We would like to have both to be able to calculate the density. Plato is to do that; a new type of telescope of Esa, which is to go into operation in 2026. From the density we can derive chemical characteristics and whether it is a planet, on which there can be water, which theoretically makes life possible. But the final proof of life will always be difficult with exo-planets: One cannot, of course, simply drive there.

 

 

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