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August 13, 2009

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German official sets sights on a trip to the moon

GERMANY should try to launch an unmanned mission to the moon by around 2015, the government official in charge of aerospace matters said yesterday.

In an interview with ZDF television, Economy Ministry State Secretary Peter Hintze said a German moon landing could be feasible "within the next decade, around 2015," and urged cooperation with other European countries and the United States.

The enterprise would likely cost around 1.5 billion euros (US$2.12 billion) over five years and could encourage industry to develop new technologies, said Hintze, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats.

The investment would be "money well spent," said Hintze, although he added, "At the moment, the finances aren't there."

It would be up to the next government to decide on such a project, the former pastor said. Germany holds a federal election on September 27, and latest polls show Merkel's conservatives have a big lead over their Social Democrat rivals.

Germany has yet to send a mission to the moon, although former Nazi rocket scientist Wernher von Braun was the architect of the Saturn V rocket that propelled the US manned moon landings.

Berlin was considering such a flight 40 years from when America's Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon in part because nations involved in space travel had recently rediscovered the Earth's natural satellite as a research object, Hintze said.

"The moon is the archive of our solar system," he said. "The moon is something like the Earth's natural space station."


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