On July 7th, and after the completion of a successful 2nd Swiss Day at Beihang University, Prof. Claude Nicollier, officially welcomed by H.E. Ambassador Jean-Jacques de Dardel, fascinated invited guests with a presentation at the Residence of the Swiss Embassy. With a total of 550 people who went into space, Prof. Nicollier is one of them to venture outside the limits of the earth’s atmosphere and willing to share his invaluable experience. Space is a very hostile environment; it is dangerous and very expensive to go there. However, it is exactly this courage and effort that will possibly pay off in the future. According to Prof. Nicollier, going to space is comparable to what happened 300 million years ago – when life left the water and went on solid grounds – and corresponds to a major step in the Darwinian evolution for the lifeforms on earth.
In fact, Swiss and Chinese universities have greatly contributed to this step; the University of Bern, for instance, has long been participating in space missions and technologies, and was already a leading partner in early space exploration programs like Apollo 11. In the last decades, China has nurtured ambitious plans as well. It is increasingly playing an important role in this extension of humanity in the space environment. Outside the earth’s atmosphere, from where one can enjoy incredibly beautiful views, we might get a better understanding of ourselves and the environment surrounding us. There is a lot to remain curious about and to go for what lies beyond. The Hubble telescope has opened our eyes to discover things never seen before, and planet Mars might be our next frontier.
Yet our biggest challenge may remain our tiny planet called Earth, which can be orbited in 1.5 hours by a lucky astronaut, offering 16 sunrises and sunsets per day, and floats like a spaceship with almost 8 billion crew members and no captain holding the steering wheel. No matter how far we will venture in space, Earth will stay our home that needs to be taken care of. If we apply the pillars of success that are needed in space missions, such as clear objectives and priorities, commonality of purpose, risk management, hard training and – often neglected – inspirations and dreams, we might get hold of our steering wheel and successfully accomplish this mission.