One of the most important goals for spaceflight in the near future is Mars where we could find answers to important scientific and philosophical questions. We know that Mars was habitable to life, for a long time it was not unlike Earth. There was a dense atmosphere and water on the surface. Today it is desolate and empty. How do we avoid the same thing happening to Earth?

Turning this into another question: does extra-terrestrial life exist? If we found a fossil on Mars or actual traces of life that evolved independently from us, we would not only know that other life indeed exists but we could also assume that the Universe is teeming with life. If life did not evolve on Earth it might have come from somewhere else where there is more life. We might have siblings in the Universe!

Milky Way stars. Credit: NASA/ESA & G. Brammer

Stars in the milky way. Credit: NASA/ESA & G. Brammer

There are probably more planets than stars in the Milky Way. Tens of billions of planets could lie in a ‘Green Zone’, an area with a similar distance to the Sun as Earth where life could exist. Our Milky Way is but one of many billions of galaxies. There are probably more stars in the Universe as there are grains of sand on Earth. I am absolutely sure that there is still much that is unknown and interesting to discover. It is time for us to take the next step into the unknown.

An expedition to Mars is feasible with current technology and international cooperation, it would be the biggest adventure of humankind. For further travel many technical hurdles need to be overcome but I know that we will succeed. Because humans are not only infinitely curious, we are also an incredibly creative species.

Many experiments on the International Space Station are trying to find out how a spaceship crew can survive many years in space. In other words: how can we build life-support systems that operate sustainably and regenerate resources? Water on the International Space Station is already largely reused. We are already taking an important step into space with our orbital outpost. Over 100 000 people have worked on the project and every day it travels the same distance from Earth to the Moon and back. Working on such a fascinating project is a wonderful adventure for me, both as a scientist and a human being.

This blog entry was translated from Alexander Gerst’s original text in German.

Japanes astronaut Koichi Wakata plays with water on Space Staion.Credit: NASA

Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata demonstrates microgravity with water on Space Station. Credit: NASA