A column by Marco Fuchs: thoughts about time and space

“We are determined to play a role in the next Israeli mission to the Moon.”

OHB has been interested in the moon for decades

April 29, 2019. Although the landing of the Israeli space probe “Beresheet” on the moon on April 11, 2019 did not proceed as planned, the mission itself was a great success and aroused a great deal of enthusiasm all around the world and especially in Israel. After all, it was the first non-governmental and predominantly privately financed lunar mission in history. I followed the livestream and shared the excitement with those involved – after all, we at OHB were very closely involved in it. At the end of January 2019, I signed a cooperation agreement between OHB and the Israeli space company IAI and am therefore very familiar with the mission.

OHB is determined to be part of the next Beresheet mission as well

So I was very happy to hear the chairman of SpaceIL, Morris Kahn, announce only two days later that a decision had been made to launch Beresheet 2. SpaceIL has built the lunar module. “We started something and now we’re going to finish it,” he said in a message on Twitter. I, too, am convinced that the Beresheet story is not over yet. The fact that it has come as far as it has is a huge success. And OHB is determined to be part of the next Beresheet mission as well. I very much hope that we can contribute to Beresheet 2 as a central part of a European lunar landing mission.

I am quite confident that this can be a success. The current great enthusiasm for the Moon will help space in this respect. Many different aspects are driving this trend: apart from the Israeli Beresheet mission mentioned above, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of man’s first lunar landing in July 2019. On top of this, the Chinese landed on the far side of the Moon this year, and finally there are plans for placing a space station in a lunar orbit - in short: interest in the Moon has not been this strong since the early 1970s. Our decades of interest in the Moon provide arguments in favor of OHB; back in the 2000s, my father, Manfred Fuchs, was a strong advocate of a German lunar mission and subsequently also of a European lunar mission.

After these projects came very close to fruition but were ultimately canceled, OHB developed and built a probe with its own resources and, together with the Chinese, launched it into a lunar orbit in October 2014. We called this mission 4M-Mission - Manfred Memorial Moon Mission - in memory of my father who had recently passed away at the time. The extent to which OHB and my father were interested in the Moon is demonstrated by a gift from the workforce in 2008: for his 70th birthday, OHB employees bought my father a 1000 square meter plot of land on “the side of the Moon facing the earth located around 58 degrees north latitude and 54 degrees east longitude” at the Lunar Embassy in the United States.

It is likely that humans will set foot on the moon

I think it is highly probable that by the middle of the next decade humans will set foot on the moon again. Unfortunately, however, I won’t be able to ask them to check out our family property. as they will have other tasks to perform. The moon is believed to hold valuable resources such as water for example. It will be very important to find these water reserves. as this will form the basis for extended stay by humans on the lunar surface. But before we think about establishing colonies on the moon, we should first concentrate on more obvious scientific tasks. Using the possibilities offered by today’s technology, we can elicit important information from the moon about the origins of the earth and the universe.

The last time humans were on the moon was in 1972. The technological and scientific progress since then offers enormous possibilities for deepening our knowledge of the history of our planet. After all, the moon is a kind of peephole into the early days of the earth - today, scientists are more or less convinced that the moon originated from parts that were blown off the earth by a gigantic meteorite impact four and a half billion years ago. Learning more about the earth and ourselves may decide our fate in the future. For it is only through scientifically founded research that humanity will be able to learn more about the processes and effects that determine the development of the earth. And it is only in this way that it will be possible to react effectively to them. Seen in this light, space travel may well also contribute to the long-term preservation of the earth as a viable habitat in space.

The moon as a kind of space hub for Missions to Mars

If we focus on the so-called dark side of the moon - which, by the way, is not dark at all, but merely the side facing away from the earth that we cannot see - then it is not difficult to imagine using it as a stepping stone for space voyages. Obviously, this would be a fantastic place for a launch pad as you would only have to overcome one sixth of the earth’s gravitational pull to reach space. Everything would be far easier and faster. But I think it will take one or two decades for us to reach the point where we can possibly embark on the journey to Mars. On the one hand, it will certainly be a long time before humans have set up the moon for themselves as a kind of space hub from which they can venture even further into space. On the other hand, far too many of the technological problems that will be posed by these long journeys into space are still left to solve. With the propulsion technology currently available to us, a manned space flight to Mars would take about two years to get there and back – far too long to have sufficient supplies on board. In addition, we would not have the protection of the earth’s magnetic field to shield us from dangerous radiation from outer space on our route to other planets.

So it makes a lot of sense to initially concentrate on the moon, where we should test and try out everything we need for later journeys into deep space. It's a little bit like it was with the sea voyages of Christopher Columbus. Columbus sailed to America. But what happened after that? Interim stations were established on the Canaries, the Azores and Cape Verde. In this way safe sea traffic was organized. Thus, in future decades the moon may perhaps serve as one of the supply points on the way to Mars – as a hub where provisions and spare parts are stored.

Personal details:

Born in 1962, Marco Fuchs studied law in Berlin, Hamburg and New York. He worked as an attorney in New York and Frankfurt am Main from 1992 to 1995. In 1995, he joined OHB, the company that his parents had built up. He has been Chief Executive Officer of OHB SE since 2000 and of OHB System AG since 2011. Marco Fuchs is married and has two children.