Written in French by Jacques Houriet, journalist at the daily newspaper “Le Quotidien Jurassien”, winner (2002) of the Jean Dumur Prize, the highest journalistic distinction in French-speaking Switzerland.
Here is the translation
Here is the translation
Français : cliquez sur les images du QJ
|Roland J.Keller : "The first step on the Moon ... and the institutional pedagogy who brought me in the space field."|
- Photo taken by : Danièle Ludwig
"I'm the last little Swiss who's going to see rockets, I sometimes feel that I'm more involved with NASA than here. And, being Swiss in the United States is fabulous. For American people, Switzerland is a mountain surrounded by cows, chocolate and watches. They do not know the EPFL and they envy Roger Federer. " Cordial meeting in Courrendlin [North of Switzerland] with Roland J. Keller, an almost cosmic colleague, the only Helvetian currently accredited to NASA.
[Courrendlin, Switzerland, April 28, 2018] Jacques Houriet – Always considerate, my photographer is waiting for me near a small building, in the center of Courrendlin, in front of which some young people get drunk with music. Our host of the day is on the second floor, we carefully choose the elevator. He opens us in space suits, it's a lot of precautions to receive a colleague. Three or four accreditation hanging around his neck, he has the radiant face Roland J. Keller. It's new, this intermediate J?
- "There is such a profusion of Roland Keller that it brought confusion, so 2 years ago I added the initial of my middle name, Jean, which is also the name of my godfather, a man adorable. Do you want to see my office? "
|I finally got what I wanted, it took me 30 years.|
- Photo taken by : Danièle Ludwig
The desk is very small, attic, lined with light wooden storage crates where dozens of binders hold all the articles written by our guest since his dawn. Three computers help heat the room; on the wall, two diplomas, a precision mechanic and a university certificate from Belfort-Montbéliard in business creation and management; on the ground a sophisticated photographic camera that a sound is enough to trigger that it comments: 60 000 releases per year ... Needs some albums.
Yet he admits a little tense before the goal of my photographer who has fun.
We settle at the large wooden table of the living room. In the part of that one, chairs and couch are foxy, the walls adorned with pictures of animals, a cat, a giraffe, and even a young woman, head to head with a horse:
- "My daughter Laura, riding fans, like her mom Anita, and I do the pictures ..."
He married late, Roland ...
- "In 1995, or 1997, wait ..."
He disappears and comes back laughing:
- "It was 1996, I was 39 years old."
And his wife Anita, 16 years less.
|Le Quotidien Jurassien du 28 avril 2018.|
So Roland is from Pleigne, even bourgeois, as were his grandparents, the families of Arthur Brosy and Ariste Keller. But he spent his childhood in Delémont [Capital of Jura], where the family temporarily took refuge after the fire of the family cottage. Son of Jeannine and Henry, said Rilo, locksmith at Von Roll [a former blast furnace company], Roland has two brothers, including the postman of Pleigne, and two sisters. No memory seems to have marked him until he was 13 years old and the combination of two apparently unrelated events:
- "I have the chance to go into a new teaching method, institutional pedagogy, with Michel Girardin. Freedom is left to the students to manage themselves, to opt for what they like. And it was that year, July 20, 1969, that the man walked on the moon for the first time. A universal event, even my grandmother Léontine got up at 3 am to see that. "
That is to say…
Leave his cradle
Space exploration has not made much progress in 50 years, apart from a few billionaire trips ...
- "The main motivation at the time was to go beyond the Russians. The dream did not stop, it is in the nature of the man, but for the moment we have remained to the domestication of space by our satellites of comfort. As for the billionaires, it is perhaps thanks to them that one day we will all be able to move in space. Because, as Tsiolkovsky said, the father of the rocket: "The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but we cannot always stay in its cradle."
Roland starts collecting scientific articles, but does not content himself with it. He writes to NASA at 13!
- "And I received an answer, and documentation. NASA provides information, unlike Russians who hide everything. Ah! I was proud. I continued to write afterwards, and I have always received answers ... "
|Le Quotidien Jurassien du 28 avril 2018.|
First steps to the "Demo"
Passion turned to science, space, he dreams of prestigious professions, but he is right:
- "How to become a space reporter? I did not go out of college. Without enthusiasm, I do an apprenticeship of precision mechanics at Tornos, a precise, rigorous job. A good experience finally. But I'm still not on the right track. "
He continues his training in a technical school in Bienne and puts a foot in journalism:
- "The Former Democrate Newspaper was looking for a correspondent for the Haut-Plateau, I propose myself. And there I covered everything, from communal assemblies to obituaries, from theater to sports competitions, television reviews, I could do everything except football. The editor-in-chief, Jean-Luc Vautravers, whom I thank again, trusted me. And that's when I started writing science articles. "
Professionally, he becomes head of the digital control department of a Biel enterprise:
- "I won well, I did little. But it was not exciting at all. I preferred writing for Le Demo. "
The Drama Fascinates
In 1981 he is accredited to NASA, where he is almost in known territory, for 12 years that he wrote to him, goes there at his own expense and offers an original article to the Democrate who pompously sign "our special correspondent ". He could have added free ...
- "Naïve as I was, I thought my job of journalist was engaged, I started myself as a space editor, I create Astropresse. It did not work, hey ... "
In January 1986 he was one of the rare Europeans to attend the launch of the Challenger shuttle in Cape Canaveral. One minute after taking off, the explosion, the drama, seven dead ... Roland's eyes darken, he makes a rum face ...
- "There all the media asked me, it's sad to say, but this trip I had covered ... It was necessary to testify."
To get out financially he will be for some time representative for life insurance:
- "I realized my goals for the year in a few months, and I returned to my passion."
His company sends him to Valais [big mountains in south of Switzerland]:
|My last trip in NASA/KSC in April 2018.|
- photo : Rob van Mackelenbergh
- "But in Valais, I was only the tourist Jura passing, you drink a drink, two glasses, three glasses with the Valais because you're Jurassien, but for business, you're not local."
Not easy. He finds himself unemployed, takes the opportunity to follow studying (Belfort, in France) in creation and management of business:
- "I wanted to understand my failures."
Backside on air
For a time he embarked on the creation of websites, while continuing his various correspondences to newspapers, which increase. He offers his services to a nautical magazine, the Cavalier Romand, which allows him to follow the exploits of his ladies, at Espace Magazine, Moto Sport, a free newspaper, including:
- "I covered four Paralympic Games in Sydney, Salt Lake City, Athens and Turin. I tell you again, I write about everything, beekeeping, « macramé » or rockets. Except the foot ... "
His workbooks bear witness to this.
In March 2008, he was appointed editor-in-chief of the monthly of Swiss Engineering [Revue Technique Suisse, RTS]. It is thanks to them and the exhibition EPHJ (Geneva) that he will live a dream: a flight in zero gravity.
The French company Novespace organizes once a year flight for scientists. For the financial, the animators simultaneously offer the flight to private, 24 people who have, have, disbursed 8’500 dollars for this rare experience. The plane, a modified Airbus A 310, rises to 10’000 meters and stakes, and describes 16 ballistic parabola.
|My last flight in "Zero G" in October 22, 2016. - Photos : Novespace/Dovespace|
Tales from Space
The passengers are in weightlessness 16 times 22 seconds (6 minutes, therefore) and know various sensations: the total weightlessness, where one floats in nothing, the lunar weightlessness, where one weighs 6 times less than its earth weight, and Martian weightlessness, where you lose a third of your weight, explains Roland:
- "And when you fall back, there is a moment when you weigh twice (1.8 g). It is magic. Of course I dream of going back, just find a sponsor ... "
Since 1981 Roland has attended, on site, 24 rocket launches. Is there still a popular interest in launching rockets when they do not explode?
- "The interest is all that surrounds it, make it possible, there is a pedagogy to do. I am a space reporter, not an engineer, I tell more than I explain, and I hope to tell. That's why I made a blog (www.rkeusa.blogspot.com). Jacques Stadelmann, who was one of my faithful, told me that I made him dream. Many readers tell me to wait for this news in the evening to fall asleep. "
Like a fairy tale.
The housekeeping shuttle
Still, it does not move the media anymore:
- "In Early April I attended a launch that included an optical system from Neuchâtel. I warned all the newspapers: no answer. Yet it is interesting, they are devices intended to recover space waste, which could disturb our satellites ... "
He explains to me the sophisticated technique of these household shuttles equipped with nets. Cosmic vacuum cleaners with nets to recover the debris of our previous exploits to bring them back to earth add them to ours we will take care later. After the shrimp fishing, the shuttle fishing! It's less digestible, and it's more expensive.
Roland J. Keller : - It "trump" a lot [In French trump is like “tromper” = delude]. In the thatched cottages, he is only a little criticism. Many Americans say that thanks to him they found a job, and that's all they want.
Men and Women Equality
- For work, all right. For the rest, I admit that I'm a little macho.
- Networks, especially computer, are useful, even necessary. But to be social is to talk to someone by looking into their eyes.
- The most beautiful Swiss project in energy, promising for ecological aviation.
The Legalized H
- It's a way, too.
To hover ...
- A supplement to renewable energy, but they will not be enough.
- It may not be too late if everyone grabs the problem and decides to reduce its consumption.
Still to convince
- They explode. We will have to explain the system a little better. If we knew everything, perhaps we would be less rebellious.
Or more ...
- They have a future; their scarcity will make their value.
- I respect them all. They engage, assume and cash shots. Whatever they do, they are criticized.
|- Photo taken by : Danièle Ludwig|
Roland J. Keller : "To avoid accidents, no shoes on board. By dint of gesticulating or hovering like a feather in weightless, I had, like all, put on simple cotton socks "Air ZeroG", during my "weightlessness" flight from Zurich to the Mediterranean . In the emptiness, a kick is quickly dropped! And the color of the socks makes it possible to distinguish the group to which one belongs. I was with the Moon, the blue socks. "