This week, I am in Berlin for meetings with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel as well as the head of the German Space Agency (DLR), Johann-Dietrich Worner, and top officials from the European Space Agency (ESA). I am also representing NASA at the world famous Berlin Air Show. My visit to Germany is a chance to reaffirm the strong and growing alliance between NASA, DLR and our other European partners, and to highlight a number of important collaborations that are currently underway, including DLR’s help in charting NASA’s ambitious path to Mars.
In fact, today, I have the high honor of presenting German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a model of Orion, NASA’s next generation deep space exploration vehicle that will be used for our Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and eventually, for a human mission to Mars. As Orion is being readied for its first test flight later this year, DLR, through the European Space Agency (ESA), is helping develop the spacecraft’s service module, which will provide essential in-space propulsion and life support systems for human crews. This is only one of many areas of cooperation between NASA and DLR.
The success of the International Space Station (ISS), our springboard to Mars and deep space, would not be possible without German support. DLR is our largest European partner for ISS and has been involved in missions for the past 13 years. In just a few days, ESA German Astronaut, Alexander Gerst will launch to the Space Station along with Expedition 40/41 crewmates, Cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and NASA Astronaut Reid Wiseman. During their six-month stay aboard the ISS, dubbed the “Blue Dot” mission in a nod to Carl Sagan’s description of Earth as a “pale blue dot,” Gerst and his crewmates will conduct a series of scientific experiments designed to improve life on Earth and prepare for future human missions.
Our German partners are also providing critical support as NASA prepares its path to Mars. In addition to its work on the Orion service module, DLR may provide scientific instrumentation for our planned Mars 2020 rover. They are also leading the development of the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer, or MOMA, for the ESA 2018 ExoMars rover. Two of the three instruments to be launched with NASA’s 2016 InSight mission to Mars, will be provided by European partners: a heat-flow probe provided by DLR and a seismometer provided by CNES, the French Space Agency.
Finally, closer to home, DLR is one of NASA’s closest international partners in aeronautics. Our organizations are founding members of the International Forum for Aviation Research (IFAR). Just last week, during my visit to the newly renamed Armstrong Flight Research Center, I had the opportunity to view the planes used on one of our joint aeronautics research projects – ACCESS II, a joint venture involving NASA, DLR of Germany and the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada, to study the atmospheric effects of emissions from jet engines burning alternative fuels. Understanding the impacts of alternative fuel use in aviation could help solve some of the key operational and environmental challenges facing aviation worldwide in the 21st century. I plan to see the ACCESS II planes and meet with our aeronautics team at the Berlin Air Show.
NASA’s partnership in the sky with DLR is paying big dividends on Earth for both Germany and the United States. We look forward to continuing to work together to expand our reach into space and bring new benefits to Earth.