When he talks about home, he doesn’t mean his backyard, but Earth itself – no wonder after the 166 days that Alexander Gerst spent hundreds of miles away in space. But he stayed close to a lot of people in other ways, and let us take part in life on the International Space Station ISS. As @Astro_Alex he regularly tweeted about his experience, posted pictures and videos, and showcased our #BlueDot, the Earth, with beautiful footage from an unseen outside perspective. He has made the way in which physical distance is becoming negligible today ever more apparent.
And still, the dimensions through which we perceive the world, the great distances and "Overview Effects", do seem to shift. Gerst has repeatedly said that he was particularly aware of this special perspective, of how beautiful and at the same time fragile our planet Earth is. On Twitter, he identifies as a European of German nationality – an indication of the need to transcend all these small, competing worlds and look for the bigger picture. Because in the end, this planet is the home we all share.
Regarding the #rp15 theme, Finding Europe, we are very much looking forward to Alexander Gerst sharing his unique perspective on Europe and the Earth, as well as some of his exciting experiences and stories from outer space. He will present his observations from a world that many of us have been dreaming of since childhood.
Space Heroes Rosetta & Philae
But not only humans play a part in the re:publica space exploration program – on November 12, 2014, when for the first time a comet landing succeeded (a feat hard to achieve on a fast-moving object with little gravity), all eyes on the net were on Rosetta and the Philae lander. It took the spacecraft ten years to reach its destination, the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. And the European Space Agency has made, and continues to make a point of involving the public in the mission directly. With the Twitter accounts for Rosetta (@ESA_Rosetta) and Philae (@Philae2014), the two probes were constantly in touch with the world. In addition to the Rosetta Blog offering real-time updates on the mission, there are also Facebook and YouTube pages and other channels presenting a wide range of information about Rosetta.
One of the goals of the Rosetta project is to learn more about the origins of our solar system – and that mission is far from over. In August this year, Churyumov-Gerasimenko will reach the point nearest the sun in its trajectory, and then hopefully Rosetta and Philae will come back to us with more exciting results. At this year’s re:publica, there will be a panel providing some insights into the mission (and its oddities). Representatives of ESA will also be reporting on the use of social media for science communication, with the special cases of Rosetta and Philae. More information on the Rosetta session can be found here.