50th anniversary of the moon landing: and the next giant leaps?
Engineering | People at thyssenkrupp | Worth knowing | It’s been over 50 years since Neil Armstrong said the famous words: “That’s one small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind.” The astronaut was absolutely right with this assessment – his step has written space history. But what has happened since then? And how will the journey through space continue for mankind?
Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon – but not the last. During the following years, the celestial body saw quite a few other visitors coming and going. After the successful “Apollo 11” mission, there were five more Apollo missions until 1972, in which a total of ten more astronauts set foot on the lunar surface.
We talked to expert Patrick Marous, CEO of thyssenkrupp’s Aerospace business, who came into contact with space travel early on in the Soviet Union and the USA. Ever since then, the aerospace industry has aroused his passion, and which has accompanied him into his professional life. For Marous, the fascination for the moon landings lies in the technical requirements of that time: “The ‘Apollo 11’ capsule had a computing power that is considerably lower than what is built into a car today.” Fifty years later – with the technology of today – we have all the means to move forward.
After the moon landing: life and research on the space station “Mir”
The moon is known for its low gravitation and large leaps; the Russian space station “Mir” made equally large leaps possible. It was built after the first moon landing and enabled the first long-term research projects and the first longer stays outside the Earth’s atmosphere, which lasted up to one year. In addition, it paved the way for the International Space Station (ISS) as it was only through Mir that the ISS could be planned. Today, the ISS is the most important research station in space and has been permanently occupied by astronauts since 2000.
50th anniversary of the moon landing: NASA pursues ambitious goals
A new space station will be built starting in 2022, which will serve as a spaceport and intermediate station for manned flights with the name “Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway”. Only two years after the opening there will be manned flights to the moon every year. By 2028 a fixed, habitable environment – the “Lunar Surface Asset Deployment” – will be created on the moon’s surface. thyssenkrupp will also be part of these missions, as the rock drill for extracting moon rock samples will be powered by a highly efficient engine, thanks to our high-tech electrical steel.
According to Patrick Marous, all these projects are technically realistic, but he doubts that they can be implemented in such a short time without international help. “We don’t just want to send people up there and then have no Plan B or Plan C – everything has to be well-thought-out and tested several times.”
Even bigger leaps
Today, manned space missions are always a preparation for future Mars missions, which are planned to start in 2033 from the newly built spaceport. Missions that have extended beyond the moon have all been unmanned so far. At the beginning of his 20s, Marous expected that a Mars landing would take place before 2020. And that’s exactly what the next big leap will be.
NASA’s flagship program successfully deployed the Mars rover “Curiosity” on Mars in 2012. thyssenkrupp helped set the rover down safely on the surface of Mars with robust aluminum and forged blocks. And anyone who has seen the pictures of this rover also knows why Mars is so fascinating.
The moon was just the first step: Mars is calling
Much has happened in the last 50 years, results have been collected about life in zero gravity, about radiation, and other adversities, all of which are used to master the next steps. But it would be quicker if the nations here on Earth would pool their efforts instead of doing everything on their own. In addition, there is the often-underestimated human factor: According to Marous, this is an “enormous physical and psychological risk.” Such a journey is an extreme burden for humans and can only be undertaken by the fittest.
Even if we are not yet as far as some would have wished, according to Marous an extraterrestrial, temporary habitable presence is one of the next necessary steps. The subsequent leap would then be a manned journey to Mars in order to build a permanent presence there. “We feel very close to Mars.”
Space exploration: an endless adventure
The next leaps are just around the corner with these planned missions. And as long as there are people who are magically attracted to the infinite vastness, who seek adventure, and who are thirsty for exploration, the next leaps will come. That is why Marous tends to be carried away when he thinks about the future of space exploration: “The endless expanse and the possibility that there’s something out there. The search for something new, the adventure, but also the technology. If I could witness a human setting foot on Mars, this would be a dream would come true for me.”