On a mission: astronauts explore the future of sustainable technology with young BMW professionals

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Munich/Cologne. Some 80 astronauts from across the   globe will be meeting in Cologne this week for the 26th Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE). As well as   providing a platform for discussions between the astronauts   themselves, this international gathering will also be aiming to   stimulate public interest in science and technology, particularly   among young people, and to raise awareness about the need for   responsible and sustainable stewardship of our planet. During the   congress, six members of the ASE will be visiting the BMW Group in Munich.


At the BMW Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ), amongst   others the astronauts from Germany, France, the USA and Russia will   report on their current missions and will discuss sustainable   technology with young BMW professionals. The discussions will focus on   fuel cell development and lightweight design – two research fields   which are of key importance both for spaceflight and for the future of   personal mobility on planet earth.

This year the Planetary Congress will be co-hosted by the Houston,   Texas-based ASE and by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). The   discussions will centre on maintaining human health and performance   and protecting the environment, and how best to promote these goals   through sustainable advances in the fields of technology and energy.   The support from event partner BMW will include providing the   participants with vehicles. For BMW, which the Dow Jones   Sustainability Index has named the world’s most sustainable car   manufacturer for eight years in a row, this partnership is one element   in an extensive programme of environmental and social initiatives.

During their visit to Munich, astronauts Klaus-Dietrich Flade   (Germany), Michel A. Tognini (France), Mary Ellen Weber, Kevin Ford   and Dr Owen K. Garriott (USA) and Yuriy Usachev (Russia) will take   part in a Community Day organised by the BMW Group’s VIP management   together with other departments for young BMW Group professionals and   for professional conversation with specialized engineers. The   astronauts will report on current and upcoming projects and will also   be giving their hosts a sense of how scientific research in the field   of space will influence future technological developments geared to   everyday life on earth.

One topic of these discussions will be the use of hydrogen as an   energy source. Both in spaceflight and in the automotive industry,   this is seen as a technology with high potential, particularly in the   context of hydrogen storage and use. The BMW Group recently emphasised   the importance of hydrogen and fuel cell technology for future   sustainable mobility when it entered into a cooperation agreement with   Toyota Motor Corporation. Under this agreement the two companies plan   to carry out combined research and development work on a fuel cell   system for vehicles. On a long-term view, hydrogen fuel cell drive   systems offer a solution that would turn into reality the vision of   locally emission-free vehicles capable of long driving ranges and very   short refuelling times. These qualities would make such vehicles   suitable for application particularly in medium-sized and large   vehicles operating over long distances.

A further focus of the discussions between astronauts and the young   BMW professionals will be intelligent lightweight design. With the   upcoming market launch of the BMW i3, whose passenger cell is made of   carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP), the BMW Group is set to become   the first company in automotive history to use this aerospace-derived   high-tech material in industrial-scale production.

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