Ulf Merbold – first astronaut from western Germany

Ralf Holighaus (Netzwert AG), Horst Thieme and Ulf MerboldTwo weeks ago Netzwert and Sun jointly organized Mobile Networking Day 2006, a networking event for mobile carriers in europe. Like already written the agenda was super – all about identity, Liberty, AAA and some practival examples from IMS and m2m. The evening was under the sign of sharing – exchange of business cards, views on technology and solutions and having great drinks. After everybody enjoyed the buffett Dr. Ulf Merbold, hero of my youth, held a little speech about his experiences in space. As I was raised in a small village close to Munich and the german ESA center in Oberpfaffenhofen, the european sapce mission was managed very close to my sleeping room, giving me some great dreams. Actually if I remember well, I had some ESA posters on the wall, including Ulf Merbold and the other ESA team members.

Ulf MerboldIn 1978 the European Space Agency (ESA) selected him to train as payload specialists on the first flight of the Spacelab module. In 1982 he was selected as the prime payload specialist, and in 1983 he flew on board the Columbia on the STS-9 mission. In 1984-1985 he participated in the preparation of the first German Spacelab mission, D-1, and thus served as backup payload specialist for STS-61-A as well as “Crew Interface Coordinator”. 1986 he transferred to the European Space Technology Center (ESTEC) to work on the European Columbus module for the International Space Station. In 1986 he also became Head of the Astronaut Office of the German spaceflight organization DLR. In 1988 NASA nominated Ulf Merbold as payload specialist on the IML-1 mission, which launched on STS-42 in January 1992. The following year he was Science Coordinator for the second German Spacelab mission, D-2 (STS-55). In 1993 he also started training to fly the first of two joint European-Russian missions to the space station Mir, called Euromir 95. In 1994 he was the first ESA astronaut to fly into space with Russia, on board Soyuz TM-20. During his three spaceflights he spent a total of 49 days, 21 hours and 38 minutes in space.

Horst Thieme, Ulf Merbold and Oliver Korfmacher (Netzwert AG)„I was really shocked as I looked out of the windows of the space shuttle and realized how thin this atmosphere was. I realized that we have to take care about this very thin layer which allows us to breath, to live“, Merbold told us. He gave an outlook that this atmosphere is not only a shield against the cold space. We can only make some experiments in space because the atmosphere acts as a shield which filters so many kinds of waves like xrays, infrared and ultrared light which might be helpful to discover the space and universes far away from us. After 3 missions in space, Merbold said: „Being in space changed our minds – from this moment on we had a complete different look on mother earth.“

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