BerlinWhen Alexander Gerst enters the stage, his fans have no stopping him. And on the Republica, the astronaut has a damn lot of them. They cheer, clap, wave with little European flags and take photos with their smartphones. On the floor in front of the first row are younger visitors who attended the Tincon youth conference in parallel to the digital conference.
That he is cheered like a superstar, Gerst does not find amazing. He used to think that astronauts themselves were superstars, he says. "I never thought I would be selected." For five years, he watched the ESA Space Agency website to avoid missing the call to apply. When he got the promise, he believed in a mistake – after all, there were still 8,412 other applicants.
But now he knew: "We are all just human. My goal is reached when people say: what Alexander Gerst can do, I can do that too. "He addresses the visitors in the front row in front of the chairs, especially the young women:" Apply, you can do that ! Everyone has the right and even the duty to give their dream a chance. You can be scientists, astronauts – one of you could even become head of the ESA. You just have to try it. "
It is no wonder that Alexander Gerst speaks at the digital conference. First, he is known as "Astro-Alex" especially social media users. Almost 1.3 million followers thrilled the astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA) alone on Twitter with his images from space. In December 2018, the German ended his second mission on the international space station ISS with a video in which he apologized to future generations for the condition of the earth. On the other hand, since 2012 there have been many ESA presentations at the Republica. Most recently, Alexander Gerst spoke here in 2015 when he returned from his first mission.
This time, the 43-year-old reports from the mission "Horizons". In the morning he was already in the Bundestag. What mankind currently consumes to life, is not sustainable, he said there the economic committee. At the Republica, Jan Wörner, Director General of the ESA Space Agency, repeatedly tries to lighten up the conversation with Gerst and the President of the Portuguese Space Agency Chiara Manfletti.
Partly the discussion remains on the surface. That's a pity, this is about Republica just about details, the look behind the scenes. It should address the footnotes, the fine print and draw attention to the importance of researching and questioning, according to the organizers.
The lecture by Johan Rockström fits right in front of Alexander Gerst's performance. The director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research says the scientific community has underestimated the pace of global warming. The Paris climate targets are hard to reach. Only if society succeeds in halving Co2 emissions by 2030 will there still be a chance to prevent the worst.
"I'm convinced that it's absolutely necessary to put all the cards on the table – no matter how awkward that may be," says Rockström. But he was also confident: "I have never seen such a willingness to change anything. There is just such an energy in the climate change agenda when compared to the situation 20 to 30 years ago. "
This energy was also felt at the Republica and that is also a concern for the ESA, explains Wörner: "We take care of all climate variables. For that, we have a fleet of satellites that tell us everything, like how the sea level rises. "
And not only that: during a mission on the ISS, about 300 experiments are carried out: "We breed, for example, crops that are resistant to climate change," says Gerst. "We do not just want to avoid climate change, we also need to provide solutions."
The audience on the Republica is fascinated. All experiments are about understanding life on earth, says Gerst. "We are researching diseases, for example. Parkinson's, for example, is triggered by a protein crystal that grows in the brain. On Earth, we can not grow the crystals big enough to properly examine them because of gravity. That's why we do it in space. "
The ISS is the most complex machine humanity has ever built, says Gerst. "The items were built by 100,000 people and then the whole thing was put together in orbit – no one knew if that works." 15 nations have been involved.
Emphasizing international cooperation is very important to Gerst and Wörner anyway. It would not work without them. Two things become more and more clear to Gerst when he looks from space to the earth, he says: how fragile it is and that you can see no limits from above. Therefore, Gerst appeals to the young people in the audience to do the same and to apply for becoming an astronaut. Next year, the chances are good, according to Wörner, that a call for tender can be found again on the ESA website.
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