How Germany wants to score in space

Berlin (dpa) – Humanity in space – to many this seems futuristic and quite distant. But the first tourists have already booked a trip to the moon.

A few years later, what science and industry are preparing under high pressure is likely to succeed: that people will enter Mars. For research, but also for industry, space is a gold mine – a gold mine in which Germany wants to play a leading role alongside major space nations like Russia or the States -United.

“One thing is clear: we want to be competitive,” German aerospace coordinator Thomas Jarzombek (CDU) said in Berlin on Thursday at a roundtable with participants from politics, science and industry.

A few weeks ago, the German Aerospace Center launched a satellite with a greenhouse in which tomatoes are grown irrigated with astronaut urine. Shortly before Christmas, German astronaut Alexander Gerst returned from the International Space Station (ISS). Next year Ariane 6 is set to debut, the latest version of the European launcher with strong German participation. These are just a few of the many space projects that Germany is promoting.

But the competition is not sleeping. Luxembourg, for example, has set itself the objective of playing with the major players in space. In addition to favorable tax conditions, the country has something that Germany has not yet had: a space law. This provides more legal certainty for entrepreneurs. The federal government wants to fill this gap and introduce a bill in 2020. A similar initiative failed in the last legislature.

“We must prevent the creation of a legal situation in which start-ups migrate to other countries”, insists the member of the Presidium of the Federal Association of the German Aerospace Industry, Andreas Hammer. According to Jarzombek, the law should strengthen Germany’s position in international competition. For example, it should regulate who is responsible for damage. On the subject of space mining, that is to say the extraction of raw materials from space, the space coordinator, on the other hand, advocates rules at the level of the United Nations. However, the federal government indicates whether, for research purposes, mining of small amounts of rare earths from asteroids is permitted.

German aerospace turnover last year was 40 billion euros, six percent more than the previous year, according to the federal association. Almost three quarters of them are exports. But the growing industry wants more: Germany should release 500 million euros by 2020, asks Hammer. Jarzombek also sees space travel as a great opportunity for SMEs. “There are a lot of hidden champions,” he said. They want to promote it.

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Industry representatives are calling for science to be better promoted so that the next generation can fight for space as well. “We need highly skilled employees,” says Hammer. “We have to get excited about space travel.” In 2017, the industry employed around 109,500 people.

As complicated and difficult to grasp as space is, it is and remains a place of desire. Even space entrepreneurs are excited to see how missions to Mars affect people. And Jarzombek reports his wife’s allegations that he had their son “space” (German: “Weltraumisiert”). “Looking at the earth from the outside is something that fascinates many,” says the German man for space. “Me too.”

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