Encounter of the textile kind

A space exhibition without an astronaut is just a stretch of red sand with examples of high-tech products on it. Hence, astronaut and physicist Dr Reinhold Ewald dropped in.

“We do not see ourselves as heroes but simply as hard-working people”, said Ewald to representatives of the media at yesterday’s opening press conference. The professor at the Institute for Space Travel Systems of the University of Stuttgart was a member of the second German-Russian mission to the MIR space station (the predecessor of today’s ISS).

From 10 February to 2 March 1997, Ewald conducted experiments, primarily in the fields of bio-medicine and material science, at an altitude of almost 360 kilometres – and experienced weightlessness for himself: “When I went to bed at the end of the first day and slowly began to relax, I noticed something very strange: my clothes no longer touched my skin – they floated around me.”

Careful with silk in space
Astronaut Ewald also spoke about the synergistic effects between the problems facing textiles in space and those on earth: “Vital parameter monitoring via sensors in T-shirts, heat resistance and very rapid temperatures changes – space-travel engineers have to meet numerous challenges with textile developments”, said Ewald. Today, the beneficiaries of this work include, for example, medical-textile applications and protective suits for fire-fighters.

Incidentally, tomorrow’s space travellers should be careful with silk: “We were only allowed one and a half kilos of luggage at that time – not so easy without memory cards for thousands of photos. At all events, I also had some silk with me and I soon discovered that it was very difficult to handle: every time I wanted to fold it, it formed a huge cloud that was almost impossible to come to grips with.”

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The ‘Living in Space’ area is multi-faceted, we will report about in small doses over the coming days. For example, about a virtual-reality tour in space – ha, take that, Matt Damon!

It’s quieter on Mars: there was a big crush when the representatives of the media got wind of the astronauts during yesterday’s tour of the ‘Living in Space’ exhibition

Watch out for the mini-Martians: whenever someone sets foot on Mars, they should look out where they step

Ronny Eckert

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