“Space for everyone!” — Science in Berlin

Berlin wants to know it—and everything else at that. As one of Europe’s most diverse science locations, the capital offers researchers plenty of space for new ideas and allows companies to even reach for the stars. Or for the moon. PTScientists show how…


Innovation needs freedom—and this freedom is enjoyed by scientists in Berlin with optimal research conditions, excellent infrastructure, as well as close networking of science and business. 80 percent of all Berlin higher education instructors cooperate with commercial enterprises. This closeness enables the genuine, profitable transfer of knowledge and is a decisive location factor that attracts innovative companies to Berlin.

Reaching for the stars

Companies like PTScientists: “Space belongs to everyone,” goes the motto of the Berlin company, located in Marzahn-Hellersdorf. Space belongs to everyone. “We want to fly from Berlin to the moon,” says Karsten Becker, Head of Electronics at PTScientists, who have dedicated themselves to a new space flight. “We want to revolutionize space flight and give even smaller universities or companies with smaller budgets the chance to get into space.” The slogan “Hell yeah, it’s rocket science” is emblazoned on the employees’ t-shirts. What at first sounds like a student’s crazy idea, is already well advanced: With powerful business partners, the moon has now come within reach of the PT Scientists.

Berlin is also known for this: Here, ideas can be bigger than the budget. Berlin allows visions.

Success stories like that of PTScientists are not uncommon in Berlin. More than 180,000 people are studying at four universities, four art colleges, seven technical colleges, and more than 30 state-recognized private universities in the metropolis—among them around 33,000 students from abroad. In addition, there are 22 inner-city technology parks and incubators, 70 non-university research institutions, as well as 18,000 scientists and 11,000 highly-skilled workers working in research and development in Berlin. These are numbers that make the capital one of the largest and most diverse science centers in Europe.

Apart from countless startups, who choose Berlin as a location, the Technische Universität alone produces around 20 innovative companies a year. With two additional universities of excellence - the Humboldt-Universität and the Freie Universität—Berlin not only offers one of Europe’s most diverse research spectra, but also the necessary expertise and highly qualified young scientists who are no longer in the ivory towers of their own institutes.

Many perspectives broaden the view

Anyone who wants to shape the future must think beyond the confines of their own discipline in an increasingly complex world. This has long been commonplace in Berlin research. Christian Feichtinger, Head of Software Development at PTScientists, says, “The different directions we come from are one big reason our team works so well. We are not just specialists. We approach things differently than scientists who have been dealing with the same topic for decades.”

His colleague Karsten Becker also came to space flight by chance: “When we got started, we were IT professionals, scientists, or people who worked in the hardware store. We are a very diverse team with one idea. We just said: We’ll just do that now. And then everyone else can see how it’s done. “Berlin is also known for that: Here, ideas can be bigger than the budget. Berlin allows visions.

Part-time researchers yesterday, moon mission today

The “PT” in the business name says a lot about the beginnings of the company, it initially stood for “Part-Time Scientists.” “The whole thing got started when Robert [Robert Boehme, founder of PTScientists, —Ed.] found out about a competition. Private companies were challenged to send a vehicle to the moon. Robert invited friends and together they determined: Yes, you can do that. So that’s how Part-Time Scientists came to be,” explains Karsten Becker. The competition, Google Lunar XPRIZE, presented the prospect of prize money amounting to 30 million dollars.

The PTScientists have since dropped out of the competition, but the idea still motivates them. Ten years later, the passionate project has turned into a space company that brings together 70 bright minds, including mathematicians, physicists, space geeks, and other experts—a new space company.

And where will this trip go next? On July 21, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon—a milestone in the history of space flight and a huge step for mankind. Six moon landings later in 1975, Gene Cernan, Apollo 17 crew member, left the last footprint on the moon. To date, there has been no privately funded mission to the Moon and the PTScientists are determined to win the “Space Race.” With their ALINA spacecraft, they want to land on the lunar surface in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, at exactly the same spot as Apollo 11.

We want to revolutionize space flight and give universities or small companies the opportunity to make their way into space. (Karsten Becker, Head of Electronics, PTScientists)

ALINA, the PTScientists’ spacecraft, is capable of carrying 100 kilograms of cargo over 384,000 kilometers to the moon. Enough cargo capacity to take on board two “Lunar Quattro” rovers on the PTScientists’ first “Mission to the Moon.” The all-wheel-drive rovers with tiltable solar panels, rechargeable batteries, and high-resolution cameras were jointly developed by PTScientists and Audi. They only weigh 30 kilograms and can be controlled by joysticks from Earth during their exploratory trips on the lunar surface. The control signal from the earth to the moon and back, by the way, only takes three seconds. 

With their “Mission to the Moon,” the PTScientists have one main goal: They want to show new and relatively cheaper ways to explore and discover space. The countdown is on, with visions and ideas, “made in Berlin.”

Photos © PTScientists

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