2010 ESOC

Satellite control and Art Nouveau

Vor dem Hochzeitsturm in Darmstadt

3rd technology tour of the Senior Expert Chemists to Darmstadt

It is now a proven concept: Senior Expert Chemists (SEC) from the GDCh are on an excursion to Darmstadt together with VAA pensioners from the Wolfgang Industrial Park near Hanau on August 30, 2010. The program included a visit to the ESOC (European Space Operations Center) and the Art Nouveau villas on Mathildenhöhe. Apparently an attractive offer, as no fewer than 40 people registered!


The ESOC is the control center of the ESA (European Space Agency). It is responsible for the operation of all ESA satellites and the necessary global network of ground stations. Darmstadt residents like to talk about “Hesse’s gateway to space.” ESOC teams have so far supported over 60 ESA satellites, such as Huygens, Mars Express, Rosetta, Envisat, GOCE, Herschel and Planck.

Ariane 2 (ein Modell)

The center has successfully carried out the most difficult satellite rescue operations and is also a specialist in space debris.

Visiting ESOC takes a little imagination. Unless a satellite is being launched into space - ESOC takes over control as soon as the satellite detaches from the launcher - the control room provided for this purpose is yawning empty. You have to imagine the flight director, surrounded by numerous specialists, all on huge screens. Everyone has a special task on a part of the satellite, everyone has to react very quickly to unforeseen situations. An example: if the antenna with the solar cells does not unfold quickly enough, the batteries are empty before the satellite can start working.

What was particularly impressive? I single out two missions. First the twin satellites Herschel and Planck, which can receive the weakest signals in the far infrared from the edge of the universe at a detector temperature of 0.3 K (with Planck even only 0.1 K!). Researchers want to get closer to the origin of the universe (Big Bang theory). Second, the landing of Rosetta on a comet. Comets are particularly valuable for studying the formation of the solar system because their matter has hardly changed. Rosetta has been on the road since March 2004 and is scheduled to land on its target comet in November 2014. In order to save fuel, Rosetta was accelerated by several swing-by flights past the earth, much like a hammer thrower gives its device momentum. Satellite missions often last decades. The telecommunications satellite Marecs-B2, for example, was launched in 1984 and is still controlled today - with the computer technology from 1984!

Türklinke an der Olbrich-Villa

Art Nouveau

It is thanks to the last Grand Duke Ernst-Ludwig of Hesse and the Rhine that Darmstadt became an important center of Art Nouveau worldwide. In 1899 he founded the artists' colony on Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt, initially inviting Joseph Maria Olbrich to Darmstadt. After Olbrich came other important artists such as Peter Behrens, Hans Christiansen, Ludwig Habich, Bernhard Hoetger and Albin Müller, who, thanks to the financial support of Ernst-Ludwig, were able to further develop the Art Nouveau and, above all, implement it in the form of residential buildings.

Art Nouveau is a rebellion against the overloaded historicism of the "Belle Epoque" (or the imperial era) and against industrial mass production, especially in Victorian England. In the artists' houses, asymmetry, floral elements, round shapes and, above all, lightness dominate.

Unfortunately, the Art Nouveau villas on Mathildenhöhe were badly damaged in the Second World War. The pensioners were able to visit two of the artists' houses and gain an impression there - again with some imagination - how the philosophy of Art Nouveau, the unity of artist and craftsman, shaped the area of daily life. It was precisely this unity that shaped the Bauhaus in Weimar a little later.

Despite careful planning, one factor of the excursion could not be organized, namely the weather. The vision was a hot, dry midsummer day, the reality was cold and wet! In keeping with the vision, a special treat concluded the tour. As the highest point in Darmstadt, the Mathildenhöhe was predestined for a large water reservoir. It was built in 1880 and held almost 5000 m3. Today the listed complex forms the foundation of the large exhibition building. The water in the catacombs is only 30 cm high. What refreshment after a hot day of sightseeing! The enthusiasm of the pensioners for the refreshment was very limited on this cool, rainy day!

Art Nouveau and ESOC, for Darmstadt the result of fortunate circumstances and a little coincidence. The ESA's decision for Darmstadt in 1967 was thanks to the presence of the "Technical University" at the time and a mainframe computer. The Grand Duke Ernst-Ludwig was one of the many grandchildren of Queen Victoria of England. There he enjoyed a decent English upbringing and got to know the Arts and Crafts movement - it is rightly considered one of the pioneers of Art Nouveau.

Text and photos: Wolfgang Gerhartz

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last modified: 25.11.2023 12:29 H from Translator