Edelgard Bulmahn visits Russia
Edelgard Bulmahn, the German Minister of Education and Research, and the Chairperson of the ESA Ministerial Council visited Russia on 8 February to attend the opening of the International Research Centre of Physics of Low Temperature Plasma in the city of Korolyov. During her short stay she also visited Mission Control Centre (TsUP) and met with Anatoly Perminov, the Head of the Federal Space Agency, to discuss further German/Russian cooperation.
The International Research Centre of Physics of Low Temperature Plasma is co-founded by ITES, the Russian Institute of Thermal Physics of Extreme Conditions; Energia, the Russian Space Corporation; and Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. This new centre has been set up to process the results of the plasma crystal experiment that is being conducted in orbit, on board the International Space Station (ISS).
The plasma crystal experiment has now been running in space for almost 10 years. An expert at Energia corporation said that back in January 1998, cosmonauts Vladimir Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov conducted the first experiment to obtain plasma-dust crystals in a PK-1 device at the orbiting complex Mir. This was followed by the use of PK-2 equipment consisting of a gas discharge lamp and a device for video recording the experiment, and now, Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov, is using a PK-3 device to carry out the final, 12th session of the plasma crystal experiment that began at the ISS in March 2001.
Vladimir Fortov, an Academician and Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explained that: “High frequency plasma is created in a vacuum chamber and placed in a hermetic box, then a portable computer with a video camera is used for observation. Plasma containing not only electrons, ions and neutral particles but also strongly charged dust particles of micron sizes is called dust plasma. Interaction of these particles in particular, leads to the formation of ordered structures and plasma-dust crystals,” the scientist said.
“Processes occurring in plasma-dust structures on the Earth are strongly warped by the effects of gravity, but its influence is absent in space. The areas in which the results of the experiment can be applied are very broad as dust plasma is used in microelectronics and in nano-structure design. Research is now being done to create a nuclear battery for space flights and this experiment is also very important for telecommunications technologies and for developing new types of energy,” Vladimir Fortov told journalists.
“The world is witnessing a nanotechnology boom, and the Plasma Crystal experiment will open up new opportunities here. It could become a prototype for new compact power sources with a very long service life, it could be applied in the thermal nuclear reactor project that needs to be cleared of dust from time to time, it could have applications in medicine and it could even be used to reduce the cost of making artificial diamonds, as the major cost is cleaning the original material,” he added.
Dr. Morfil of the Max Planck Institute and Dr Fortov of the Institute for Plasma Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, presented the plasma crystal experiment to the Minister as well as the scientific results obtained so far.
Visit to Mission Control Centre
During her visit to the Mission Control Centre in Korolev, in the Moscow region, Edelgard Bulmahn referred to the excellent Russian/German cooperation in space research, both on a bilateral basis as well as within the framework of ESA/Russia cooperation. She also held an interactive TV conference with the ISS crew and was able to discuss with them the experiments being conducted on the Russian segment with Germany’s participation.
A number of subjects came up during her fruitful meeting with Anatoly Perminov, the Head of the Federal Space Agency. These included:
- intensifying German-Russian cooperation in the area of space exploration
- Russia’s participation in the European Galileo programme
- cooperation in the area of robotics (example - RokvISS)
- cooperation in joint scientific experiments onboard the ISS.
- participation in the Mars Isolation Study proposed by the Institute of Bio-Medical Problems (IBMP)
- the long-duration Mission of ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter onboard the ISS