The one who makes giving happy: Who is Ulrich Walter?


Ulrich Hans Walter was born 1954 in Iserlohn and is a German physicist, former science astronaut and current holder of the Chair of Space Technology at the Technical University of Munich.

There, he teaches researches and develops satellite systems, especially for robotic applications, continued system technology (system modeling and optimization), manned space systems (life support systems and ISRU) and High Velocity Impact Physics (investigation of micrometeorite impacts).

Prof. Walter studied physics and obtained his doctorate at the University of Cologne with guest stays at Forschungszentrum Jülich and the high-flux reactor ILL Grenoble. He then worked for a year as a postdoctoral fellow at Argonne National Laboratory, Chicago/USA, and for another year as a DFG fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. After joining the German astronaut team in 1987 and training as a scientific astronaut, he flew the D-2 mission with 89 scientific experiments aboard Columbia in 1993. From 1994 to 1998, he led the development of DLR’s satellite image data archive. In April 1998 he became Program Manager at the IBM development laboratory in Böblingen. Since March 2003 he is head of the Institute of Astronautics at the TU Munich.

What will your world look like in a hundred years?

In a hundred years’ time, I believe – and hope – that there will no longer be any great boundaries. That would also mean, for example, that there would no longer be any German. Our language will become a dialect, possibly in a whole network of languages

I believe there will be one world language – English – with various small dialects. The great advantage will be that we will no longer have to learn different languages, but will all understand each other effortlessly. This will bring people closer together and faith in the future. The Germans don’t play a role in this, because they don’t believe in the future, they just hang on to their past. But the others – Indians, Chinese and Americans hope very much for the future and will carry the Germans away.

In other words, the Germans will not play a major role for the future, but they will be carried away by the other nations. The 80 million Germans really do not matter to the 8 billion people.

You think that people should not yearn for the past – not live backwards?

That’s it! We Germans are an old, no, an aging people. We live in the past. We are afraid of the future. But we love that. We are afraid. This is also reflected in the overall climate catastrophe scenarios. They are far from being so, but we love apocalyptic thinking. We are afraid of the future and of change. Everything should remain as it is. We live in the past, and that is incompatible with the rest of the world. This is typically German, even European. But we Germans are the pioneers of this thinking in Europe.

Retrotopia – the longing for the past – Germans especially yearn for the time of the economic miracle, right?

It is the same! Yes, that’s where we grew up. And it is also the long-term memories of the time of music and literature of German history. I recently heard that the number of museums in Germany has doubled in recent years. Museums are important, of course, but in Germany this is overvalued.

What are your hobbies?

There are the things I would like to do: archery, butterfly science and photography. These are my personal needs. But I don’t have time. I’m doing a lot of public relations work now and my focus has shifted. I understand that there is a lot i can do to give something to other people. And especially students. There are often students here in the doorway who say, “Mr. Walter, can you remember me?” I say no and he replies: “Fifteen years ago, you gave me an autograph at the Open Day at the German Aerospace Center, when I was a child and I have wanted to study space technology ever since. Today I’m studying this here.” Something like that gives you a lot. It gives me more than a hobby.

So your personal formula of happiness is giving?

Yes. That’s right. When you realize that you have given something to a young person, that is very nice.

Nice! Thank you for the interview.

Here you will find the previous full film – interview on the subject of people in space.


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