Issue 16, July 2011
bulletResearching Inner and Outer Space
bulletInterview: Reinhold Ewald
bulletCleaning Up Space: DLR's DEOS Mission
bulletThe Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 
bulletCluster of Excellence: Origin and Structure of the Universe
bulletInnovation: Plasma Technology for Chronic Wound Treatment and Removal of Ehec-Bacteria
article1Researching Inner and Outer Space
Twenty years after the first human traveled into space, the U.S. space agency NASA's shuttle fleet established itself with the launch of Columbia on April 12, 1981. For 30 years, in 135 missions, the U.S. Space Shuttle Program brought 356 astronauts from a total of 16 countries, among them seven Germans, into space. Marking the end of an era, the last shuttle, Atlantis, returned from its final voyage on July 21, 2011.
The development of space flight and the International Space Station (ISS), the largest outpost of humanity in space, supports research benefiting the fields of medicine, agriculture, mechanical engineering, earth observation, and climate control. According to the German Aerospace Center (DLR), German scientists have accomplished numerous experiments, such as the investigation of the human equilibrium system, the breeding of protein crystals, and basic physics (plasma research) onboard the ISS.
For this issue of E-NNOVATION Germany, we interviewed Reinhold Ewald, who, in 1997, spent 19 days aboard the MIR Space Station. He was involved in life science experiments, where he underwent strict metabolic control to discover how the human body stores sodium under specific conditions. Today, as operations manager at the Columbus Control Center, the facility responsible for communications between the astronauts and ground crew of 75 scientists and engineers who supervise European activities on the ISS, he continues to be involved in research stemming from the original work he conducted in space 14 years ago.

Reinhold Ewald
article2From Physicist to Astronaut: Reinhold Ewald
Throughout  his career, Reinhold Ewald has always reached for the stars: In 1997, he became the ninth German to travel into space. He spent 19 days aboard the Mir Space Station as a research cosmonaut. As a member of the second German-Russian mission, he performed experiments in biomedical and material science, and carried out operational tests in preparation for the International Space Station (ISS).
Born in 1956, Ewald studied physics at the University of Cologne, where he also received his PhD in 1986. As a young research associate at the German Research Foundation (DFG), his work focused on the structure and dynamics of interstellar molecular clouds, which are thought to be the birthplace of new stars. He is currently the operations manager at the European Space Agency's Columbus Control Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. For a complete bio, please click here.
In this GCRI Interview, Ewald discusses how research results obtained in space affect daily life on Earth and which technological innovations he wishes had existed 14 years ago. He also reflects on the end of the U.S. Space Shuttle era and shares his thoughts on space tourism. To read the full interview, click here.

article3Cleaning Up Space: DLR's DEOS Mission
Defunct spacecraft parts, abandoned launch vehicles, and fragments from satellite collisions are estimated to constitute more than half a million pieces of space trash. These objects circulate in space at up to 17,500 mph. According to NASA, there are over 500,000 objects that are larger than a marble, at least 20,000 softball-sized, and possibly even some truck-size pieces, floating up in space.
Due to its speed, even an orbiting paint fleck could damage a spacecraft. On June 28, 2011, the International Space Station (ISS) experienced a near miss with a piece of space debris flying in dangerously close proximity to the station. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is currently developing and building two satellites with the goal of catching, repairing, and/or disposing of decommissioned satellites. Within the framework of the DEOS project (German Orbital Servicing Mission), scientists at DLR's Robotic and Mechatronic Center in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich, Germany, are working on a "servicer," an active service satellite. The servicer would seize another satellite which simulates a non-cooperative passive target. A robotic device called a "manipulator," mounted on the servicer, could then grasp the defunct satellite. In a successful DEOS demonstration, the servicer would close in on the target, capture it, and guide it to re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, where it would be destroyed. Operated by DLR's German Space Operations Center (GSOC), DEOS includes the use of the European Proximity Operations Facility (EPOS).

article4The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on the International Space Station is Probing some of the Deepest Mysteries of the Universe
On its final mission, the space shuttle Endeavour delivered a special piece of equipment to the International Space Station (ISS): the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). For over 10 years, more than 500 scientists and engineers from 16 countries contributed to the development of this instrument, which weighs over 7 tons (15,000 pounds) and is valued at about €1.5 billion ($2.18 billion).
Professor Stefan Schael, Chair of Experimental Physics at RWTH Aachen University, coordinated Germany's contributions to AMS, and his group participated in developing and assembling several AMS components.
AMS, which was mounted on the ISS on May 19th, 2011, is a state-of-the-art cosmic ray detector that aims to unravel some of the deepest mysteries of the universe. For example, AMS will attempt to shed light on the nature of dark matter, the existence of which has only been inferred from its gravitational imprint. Then there is antimatter: according to the Big Bang theory, when the universe was created, matter and antimatter were produced in equal quantities. Until now, there has been no direct evidence for the existence of cosmic antimatter.
"Today, our physical theories are capable of explaining about 4 percent of what the universe is made of - for the other 96 percent, we are using terms such as 'dark matter' and 'dark energy,' but we really don't know much about it," says Professor Schael. For further information, click here. To contact Professor Schael, click here.

Cluster Universe
article5Cluster of Excellence: Origin and Structure of the Universe
How was the universe formed? What are its fundamental forces and structures? Why are there galaxies, stars and planets? What led to the formation of chemical elements? What does the future hold for the cosmos?
These questions illustrate the themes scientists have to address when studying the universe. To this day, scientists have not found a satisfactory explanation for how the cosmic building blocks of matter, space and the basic forces have developed. Also, the question is still open as to why the standard model of physics cannot explain a number of phenomena of modern particle- and astrophysics.
The Cluster of Excellence Origin and Structure of the Universe was established at the Technische Universität München (TUM) in October 2006 within the Excellence Initiative of the German Research Foundation (DFG). This unique and internationally-recognized collaboration consists of more than 200 scientists working to decode the great secret called the "universe."
Located near Munich, at the Research Center at Garching, the Universe Cluster unifies the physics faculties of TUM and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU). Other partners are the University Observatory of LMU, several Max-Planck-Institutes and the European Southern Observatory (ESO). For more information, click here.

Hand-held Plasma Device
article6New Plasma Technology for the Treatment of Chronic Wounds and the Removal of Ehec-Bacteria
The rise in drug-resistant bacteria and hospital infections poses an increasing challenge. In response to this problem, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics have developed various plasma devices, which generate a so-called cold atmospheric plasma and can be used to destroy bacteria, fungi and even viruses. The results of a clinical study at the Klinikum Schwabing show that the technology marks the advent of a completely new approach to the treatment of chronically infected surface wounds. When the plasma device is held over an open wound on the body, the plasma flows over it and kills the bacteria without contact or pain. Even drug-resistant bacteria and hospital infections can be treated this way. Moreover, in current experiments, different Ehec bacterial strains, including O104:H4, could be killed effectively. This shows that the innovation could also serve to improve food hygiene. Another promising field of application for the new plasma devices, which are also available as small hand-held prototypes, is the disinfection of temperature-sensitive surfaces like human skin. Hospital personnel can thereby disinfect their hands in a matter of a few seconds. At home the devices can be used for the disinfection of cuts and the prevention of periodontitis. For more information, click here.

Picture: Using the hand-held plasma device, Ehec-bacteria can be effectively removed from vegetables at home.    


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