Astronaut candidate's profile
What is your current job?
Chief systems engineer, EDEN ISS Project, German Aerospace Center - The EDEN ISS project is developing a greenhouse that will be sent to the German Antarctic station, Neumayer III. It will provide the station's 9-10 overwinterers with fresh food throughout the year while testing various technologies that will keep astronauts alive on long-duration space missions. I am responsible for helping engineers and scientists from our 14 worldwide partners design and manufacture their hardware, to build and test the facility here in Germany and later, to deploy the facility to Antarctica.
Why do you want to become an astronaut?
The simple answer: exploration. Humans need to explore. We need to be doing something outside of our "day to day" to push boundaries, to come up with new ideas, to understand what is possible. Exploration is not just going to a new place, but it is also investigating new areas of research, advancing relations between people and, on a personal level, trying new things (subjects in school, hobbies, etc.). This is the only way to gain new perspective and understanding and to find out what may be even more important to humankind in the future.
What motivated you to study in your field?
I selected to study aerospace engineering because I desired to build hardware that would fly, in particular associated with human space flight. I studied environmental biology because for long-duration space flight, closing up the water, air and food loops will be crucial, and plants can do all three. This integration of technology and biology (plants and humans) means research in this field is always interesting. The pull of space technology required for space greenhouses can also provide considerable benefit here terrestrially.
Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?
Although I have had many teachers who had an important impact on my life, my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Bruce, was the one who influenced me most. In addition to being an amazing teacher (and just a genuinely great person), it was his passion that was unmatched. Seeing someone who is so passionate about what they are doing taught me a tremendous amount about the importance of following your interests to find a career you love. Finding your passion is one of the most important things someone can get out of school. Thanks, Mr. Bruce!
What do you like best about your job?
I have been fortunate to be able to forge a project from idea to deployment. There is something special about working on a small team with an idea (an Antarctic greenhouse to test technologies for space!), having that idea come to fruition with a proposal, and now helping lead a large international team to actually implement such an exciting project. I love my job because of the great mix of analysis and actual hands-on work, the international flavour and the fact that the project is an excellent space outreach tool. Another bonus is that the project involves travel to Antarctica!
Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?
There have been so many great explorers I admire, but my real heroes are my parents. They gave me the complete flexibility to follow my dreams and pursue whatever was of most interest to me, and they continue to be supportive today. They also taught me a great deal about the importance of always treating others with respect, including those people you do not know, putting extra energy and time to invest in such things. This side of human spirit is what makes me admire them and gives me so much confidence in the goodness of people in general.
What is your favourite sci-fi movie?
Both classics, but possibly Silent Running and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Silent Running has obvious ties to space-based plant production/greenhouses, and I love Invasion of the Body Snatchers just because of how it ends. Crazy! For non-sci-fi movies, I would have to go with Bon Cop, Bad Cop.
What is your motto?
Life is good. And it is!
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