There were times when someone like Anna Christmann would have been banned by the Greens, at least. The 38-year-old member of the Bundestag from Stuttgart is now the federal government’s coordinator for aerospace. It is a task which in the past would have caused extraordinary displeasure in your party. Space research or enthusiasm for jet engines was nothing but a waste of money for generations of the Greens or was associated with Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars”, the SDI missile defense program.
The militarization of space, however, has little to do with what the green real Anna Christmann has in mind. Rocket tourism into space, such as that of Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, is also not to their liking. “A lot of people think of space as astronautical space travel. But it is very much about observing the earth and collecting data,” she says. “This is of great interest for climate protection and has a very practical benefit for our lives.”
She also studied maths once
The space officer, who is connected to Robert Habeck’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, studied political science, economics and mathematics in Heidelberg and wrote her doctoral thesis on the limits of direct democracy in Switzerland. She is not a rocket scientist, but one who is at home in the research scene. From 2013 she worked on a digital strategy in the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science. She has been in the Bundestag since 2017, in the last electoral term as the green spokeswoman for innovation and technology policy and chairwoman of the study commission for artificial intelligence.
Christmann belongs to a generation of Greens who are opposed to the technology hostility of older green semesters or debates that understand nature and progress as opposites. “It’s also about arming yourself for challenges that we don’t know about today,” she says of space research, where, like mathematics, she is fascinated by dealing with the unknown.
What numbers and space have in common
Christmann probably got the inclination for numbers from her parents’ house. The father made it from a vocational school teacher to a publisher and an IT company that he runs with his mother. “Entrepreneurial spirit” is how Anna Christmann calls the attitude of her parents, which the protest against Catholic authoritarians once led to the Greens. She herself is not a rebel, first studied math, but then decided to go into politics.
Anyone who talks to Anna Christmann about her new task hears stories of the infinity of numbers and space. Using clear mathematical rules to grasp phenomena that humans actually cannot grasp, “on the one hand unambiguously, on the other hand hardly comprehensible”, that is also a journey to the border zones of the human mind, she says. One lesson from this: to recognize human limitations and “that one knows that one knows nothing”.
Anna Christmann now wants to become a communication channel between industry, research and the growing green space community. Because despite all the affinity for technology: Every aircraft and rocket drive damages the ozone layer, even if it is fired with hydrogen instead of fossil fuels. One goal is sustainability, she says. “It’s about types of drive, but also about reusability, which is the focus of many current developments for cost reasons.” But also space junk should be cleared away as soon as possible, the first German female astronaut should be sent into space and curiosity aroused: “If I can drive the enthusiasm in society for space travel and innovation, an initial goal has already been achieved.”