Experienced German astronaut Alexander Gerst (pictured on February 9, 2023) could become one of the Europeans who will fly to the moon as part of the Artemis mission.
Bremen (Germany) – Experienced German astronaut Alexander Gerst could become one of the Europeans who will fly to the moon as part of the Artemis mission. Returning to the moon is considered by Gerst to be an important step in the development of humanity, he perceives the natural satellite of the Earth as the eighth continent, where humanity can learn a lot not only about the history of its planet, but also about its future.
“The Moon is the eighth continent of the Earth,” said Gerst at a meeting with journalists in Bremen, North Germany, where the European Space Agency (ESA) together with the Airbus concern showed the assembly of service modules for the Orion ship to the press. It was on this spacecraft that Gerst could go to the moon. It is not yet clear whether that will happen, but it is certainly not without chances. So far, Gerst has been in space twice, spending a total of almost one year here.
“I would definitely like to fly to the moon. But I don't know if I or one of my colleagues will be chosen,” said Gerst. That Europeans will fly to the moon is certain. In the Artemis lunar program led by the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), European astronauts have reserved places, emphasized David Parker, who is in charge of robotic and manned space exploration at ESA. However, Parker did not mention any specific names or dates.
Even Spaniard Pablo Álvarez Fernández, whom ESA presented last November as one of the five future career astronauts, did not hide his desire to walk on the moon. Czech fighter pilot Aleš Svoboda, who was selected by ESA for the reserve team of astronauts, was also shortlisted.
“The moon is certainly the dream of every astronaut, but you have to go step by step,” said Fernández when asked if he would like to be in the Artemis program. He noted that his next step, which he is now focusing on, is to begin space training. He described his future career, which may take him into orbit around the Earth or the moon, as the greatest adventure of his life, which will also benefit humanity. “We are pushing the boundaries of technical knowledge, which will ultimately help us here on Earth,” he said.
Gerst also spoke about the importance of space exploration and conquest. “From space, you look at our planet in a completely different perspective. You realize, for example, to what extent the rainforest is being cut down in the Amazon, how terrible it is. And you start to worry about this planet. You even feel responsibility or remorse when you see all this beauty and what damage we are doing,” he said.
Space exploration can help solve Earth's pressing problems, while also helping to better understand the planet. And the best place for such research and observation is, according to Gerst, the Moon. “It is the ark of our history. It can tell us a lot about how the Earth was formed. And it can help us learn something about the future of the Earth as well,” he said. According to him, the moon is also ideal for monitoring what dangers threaten Earth from space.
Gerst also sees the return to the moon as part of the journey of humans to Mars and further into space. “On a space station in Earth orbit, we can learn how to live on the moon. And on the moon, we can learn a lot about how to live on Mars,” he said.
Gerst likened exploring the moon to exploring Antarctica . “People will say, the moon is far away, it costs a lot of money to get there. And they said exactly the same thing about Antarctica a hundred years ago. The expedition there, it was for two years. And several expeditions never came back,” he said. However, according to him, returning to the moon will be worthwhile, because thanks to the development of science and technology, it will bring benefits to all of humanity.