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When the sky is not the limit: ‘The first female astronaut’ at Cleanzone

Nov 7, 2019

On 19 and 20 November 2019 in Frankfurt am Main, Cleanzone will be opening its doors to the providers and users of contamination control and cleanroom technology. The international trade fair also boasts a high-quality supporting programme that is full of valuable ideas, and one of this year’s highlights will be a presentation by Claudia Kessler, founder of the start-up ‘Die Astronautin GmbH’. She will be giving her presentation on 20 November 2019 at 2:00 p.m. as part of the Cleanzone Conference.

Claudia Kessler, founder of the initiative ‘The first female German astronaut’
Claudia Kessler, founder of the initiative ‘The first female German astronaut’

Ms. Kessler, why did you decide to give a presentation on your ‘The first female astronaut’ project at the Cleanzone trade fair?

There are still far too few women in technological professions. The shared purpose of Ladies@Cleanzone at the Cleanzone trade fair and the ‘The first female astronaut’ project is to highlight the role played by women in the natural sciences and technology. Women in the technological professions have a great deal to offer, yet they are often overlooked. This is something that must change.

Is that why you launched your ‘The first female German astronaut’ project?

Precisely. We want to provide women and girls with role models. We want to inspire dreams and visions. Women must be knowledgeable in very specific areas if they want to become astronauts. In fact, they have to be scientists, as that is the only way that they will be able to fulfil their dreams of travelling into space. This is where we do our part by offering workshops and presentations that highlight new paths and opportunities for women in technological professions.

Please give us a brief description of your project.

Our aim is to send the first female German astronaut on a research mission to the International Space Station (ISS). By doing so, we hope to inspire women and girls to pursue technological professions and to obtain degrees in natural sciences. Furthermore, during her stay in the ISS our astronaut is to pursue a programme of experiments to see how the female body reacts to weightlessness. That is why we launched the start-up ‘Die Astronautin GmbH’ back in 2016. We have a team of more than ten engineers here who are working to prepare both finalists for their mission, as well as another team dealing with finances.

What are some of the interfaces to cleanroom technology and to the Cleanzone trade fair?

There are quite a few, in fact: the aerospace industry also works under cleanroom conditions, and this is a very important topic there. Both of the astronaut candidates (one of whom will be flying to the ISS in 2020) practise such things as working with instruments using a so-called ‘glove box’ to carry out scientific experiments while avoiding contamination. And naturally, just like the trade fair, we want to achieve greater equality for women in technological and scientific professions.

Now let us take a look into the future – into women’s future. What changes to you see occurring in coming years?

Work and life boundaries will become increasingly blurred. In conjunction with increasing digitalisation, there will be greater freedom for combining family life with professions, and this will benefit women. Yet we have to be thinking much further ahead: already today, there are ambitious plans like those of Elon Musk to begin colonising Mars in 2025. If we really do want to make these plans a reality, then highly educated and dedicated women are a must. Women are essential to the future of humankind, as well as to the protection of our planet, our natural environment and our resources. And anything that aims to be productive requires equal opportunity and equal rights.

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