Are you looking forward to the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon?
“Yes, I am certainly looking forward to that. It is fantastic to see a new spaceship launched. It starts to itch again completely. I would have loved to have been on board. It is also important because we are no longer dependent solely on the Russian Soyuz missile. In addition, a spaceship will soon be added, the Boeing Starliner. ”
What is different about the Crew Dragon than other spaceships?
“The spirit of Elon Musk is clearly there. With government agencies like NASA, the European ESA or the Russian Roscosmos, everything has to be functional, it just has to work. This is clearly also about show. The spacesuits are designed by someone (Jose Fernandez ed.) Who normally makes movie costumes. And when I opened the first Dragon, I really had the feeling that I ended up in a science fiction movie. The style, the layout, it is very different. ”
Is it important that it all looks so sleek?
“Not for me, I have to say honestly, I find it a bit childish at times. The launch of that Tesla, for example, should not have been necessary. It is commercial, advertising, I think it is a little disregard for the serious work we do. It has to be functional and it doesn’t really matter what it looks like. But then again: I am also a science fiction fan, I love it. It has its charm and yet it is strange that you use the film world to adjust reality instead of the other way around. ”
Dreaming of the Space Shuttle
As a young man, Kuipers dreamed of a flight on the American Space Shuttle, but that never happened. The Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, after a shuttle exploded on return to Earth in 2003. The heat shield was damaged and the shuttle became too hot. Seven crew members died. Kuipers will go to the ISS space station in 2004 and 2011 with the Russian Soyuz, a proven rocket that has been made since 1966.
“I flew as a co-pilot in the Soyuz. So I had to be able to control the thing all by myself. It was difficult, but once you can do it, it’s magical. But I would have liked to have flown in the Shuttle. The best thing is if you fly multiple types of spaceships. ”
By postponing the launch, André Kuipers was allowed to link the first SpaceX Dragon to the ISS in 2012.
“As a backup crew, we had of course trained a lot for that, because he had to be caught with a robot arm. That was exciting. I had to take over and control the capsule from ISS. It all goes very smoothly in films, but in real life it took us an hour or two. It’s all automatic with the Crew Dragon. Well, Elon Musk does it nicely, it is good that it happens. You can dream about it, but doing it is something else. It goes in small steps, but when I paired that Dragon I already thought: ‘This is the beginning of a new era’. ”
Watch out for space tourism
An era of space tourism too. The first tourists may go to ISS with the Crew Dragon at the end of next year. How do you look at that?
“It is a logical development. Tourists are already there of course, we have had eight who stayed in ISS for a week. They first had to pay twelve, then twenty and now fifty million euros for the Russians. That was to spice up Russian space travel. It is a normal development, but we must of course be careful not to become too harmful to the environment. If the pleasure for that individual comes at the expense of all humanity, then of course you have to question it. Until now, space travel has been useful for humanity, think of: Earth observation, navigation, communication. Tourism is of course something different. That should not have too many adverse effects. ”
And the film plans with Tom Cruise on the ISS?
“Cruise is a supporter of the Scientology sect, it is difficult to understand that they are taking it. It is a sect based on a science fiction story. It is somewhat the loss of space travel. We do serious work, we want to do useful things for humanity and then you get this. But: it is a good actor. ”