Journey to the Future: interview with André Kuipers

Rabo Theater De Meenthe spoke with André Kuipers about his new theater lecture ‘On a journey to the Future’.

André, you have been in theater before with a series of 155 theater lectures across the country. Why are you returning to the theaters now?

First of all, I really enjoy sharing my knowledge with the public. But a lot has happened in the past five years. We have truly entered a new space age. So it was about time to tell this story.

A new space age? How do you mean?

There are currently many different developments that you can look at from different angles. Countries compete with each other again. China, for example, has its own programme. They bought the technique from the Russians, improve it and go fast. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re the first to get back to the moon to do one taikonaut to land. Naturally, these developments encourage other nations to want to keep up. There’s a new one space race going on.

Why are we actually going back to the moon?

Presence on the moon is no longer just a matter of prestige. There are important economic interests in wanting to be involved. Europe has plans to build a moon base there, Moon Village, where people can survive for a longer period of time. There is a large amount of helium 3 stored, deposited by the solar wind. It has been calculated that when we master nuclear fusion, there will be 1000 years worth of energy stored on the moon. Economic interests have always been an important driver for the exploration of unknown destinations. It is no different with the moon.

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In addition to national space agencies such as ESA and NASA, commercial space companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX are also active? What’s up with that?

‘Space agencies such as NASA and ESA are at the forefront of their programs to gather knowledge and conduct research. They pave the way for companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Commercial enterprises are mainly concerned with practical applications such as developing reusable missiles and supply ships. Now that astronauts are going to the International Space Station in spaceships from SpaceX and soon from Boeing, and we can return to the moon in the near future, developments in manned space travel are accelerating.’

Are we really going on a honeymoon to the moon?

‘You can take into account that our great-grandchildren can go on holiday in space. As with any development, it takes a while before a service becomes affordable and suitable for slightly larger numbers. We have seen the same development in shipping and aviation. We have to be patient, but these are fascinating developments. Just imagine such a hotel: that’s again a room with a view…

What will be the greatest historical event we will witness in the coming years?

That will undoubtedly be the moment when the first human set foot on Mars. We’ve been researching and developing for decades to make that happen, and it’s going to take a few more years to get there.

As in the 1960s, the assignment is extremely costly and extremely complicated. A trip to the moon takes three days, that to Mars many months and space radiation is a big problem along the way. On Mars itself it is bitterly cold, there is no thick atmosphere to protect us against the life-threatening radiation. There is no water, no oxygen. You have to wear a space suit and live underground, grow your own crops that are free of disease. The small community in which you live must continue to interact pleasantly despite these life-threatening circumstances. A medical problem can quickly be fatal. In short: the challenge is great, but the day will come when man will make this next giant leap.’

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Will a trip to space help people become more aware of our fragile planet?

‘I would prefer to take everyone on a space trip. The journey is exciting, the floating fantastic and the view phenomenal. Seeing that beautiful blue sphere in the black nothing makes you realize: this beautiful earth is our home. We share this planet with all people, animals and plants. This is what we have, here we have to make do together. Developments in space travel continue, we go back to the moon and eventually to Mars, but the universe is extremely hostile. This is the only place where we really belong. ‘

The performance ‘The journey to the future’ by André Kuipers can be seen on Friday 3 February in Rabo Theater De Meenthe. More info & tickets:

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