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Bergita and Urs Ganse - Four Way Interview

Bergita and Urs Ganse are siblings and the authors of The Spacefarer’s Handbook – Science and Life Beyond Earth, a translation of their German book, published by Springer in 2017. Urs is a theoretical space physicist, with a research focus on plasma simulations and works at the University of Helsinki in Finland. He uses supercomputers to model the near-Earth plasma environment and its interactions with Earth's magnetic field. Bergita is a university professor at Saarland University in Germany, an orthopedic surgeon and a physiologist. Her research focuses on the musculoskeletal system in spaceflight. She is a co-investigator of an ISS experiment, and she teaches Space Medicine to university students.

Why Space? 

Urs: I guess we were exposed too much to science-fiction as children. We watched Star Trek every day, read books about space and played computer games. Somehow, spaceflight became a solid part of our normal understanding of the world. Ever since then, it has seemed kind of natural for me to try to learn as much about space as possible.

Bergita: Cutting-edge high-tech research, interdisciplinary and international work, exciting open questions, meeting amazing people, finding unconventional solutions, and going to where no one has gone before.

Why this book?

Urs: I would have wanted to read it when I was 12 years old. But it didn't exist yet, so I felt like I needed to write it!

Bergita: When my brother asked me if I wanted to write it together with him, I could not resist the temptation. I had always wanted to write science fiction novels, but never planned to publish a popular science book. We have spent a lot of time star gazing and enjoying science fiction together as children, and while I later became a medical doctor, specialized in Space Medicine and worked for the German Space Agency (DLR), Urs became an astrophysicist and develops massive computer simulations of near-Earth space. We were a perfect match to write this book, and we both loved the idea of creating it together as siblings. That is something very special and it means a lot to me.

What’s next?

Bergita: As I only just became a full professor, I am currently having an incredibly exciting time organising my new department, creating the team, meeting new people, planning cool research projects and running the Space Medicine lectures. I look forward to travelling again and to seeing all my friends and family once the pandemic is over.

Urs: Human spaceflight is in an exciting phase now, so things are moving quickly. New rocket companies and missions are coming up, and together with them: new things to write about! So I guess it's only a question of time that a second edition of the book will be suitable.

What’s exciting you at the moment?

Bergita: My new job, many topics in medicine, sports and science, foreign cultures and countries, and good food – that’s all great!

Urs: I'm writing an application for the current ESA Astronaut call. For the first time in over 10 years, they are looking for applicants, so this is too good a chance to pass on! Apart from that, there are so many exciting things going on in research, and not just in space exploration. I'm particularly keen on the rapid pace at which AI research progresses, and I'm following that closely.



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