Five-star Bayern back in the title hunt

Bayern Munich finally gatecrashed the German title race on Saturday with an impressive away victory. Bayern produced a 5-1 romp at struggling Bochum, while Schalke won 2-0 at fellow title hopefuls Werder Bremen to edge the Bavarians into third.

Five-star Bayern back in the title hunt
Photo: DPA

Bayern’s win, coming hot on the heels of a four-goal Champions League success at Juventus, gave them 30 points from 16 games, two adrift of leaders Bayer Leverkusen, who just preserved their unbeaten league record this season with a 2-2 draw on Friday at tailenders Hertha Berlin.

With a week to go until the winter break Louis van Gaal’s men are finally firing on all cylinders just six weeks after they languished in eighth place, eight points off the summit.

A win over Mainz next week and the four-times European champions could just go into the Christmas break top of the heap.

But they lie third for now with Schalke muscling past Bremen into second thanks to goals from Kevin Kuranyi – a left-footed strike two minutes after the break – and then Jan Moravek, who fired in after Kuranyi set him up with 18 minutes remaining.

Czech star Moravek had only come on two minutes earlier for Croatian Ivan Rakitic in what proved to be an inspired substitution by coach Felix Magath, whose men are just a point off Leverkusen.

Bayern, meanwhile, cannot stop scoring. Fourteen goals in four games for two conceded tells its own story and strike tandem Mario Gomez and Ivica Olic have been leading rivals a merry

dance – leaving Germany international Miroslav Klose and World Cup winner Luca Toni on the first team fringes.

Gomez, the most expensive player in the history of the Bundesliga, opened the scoring on 23 minutes with his fourth in four games.

Then Olic, who has become a fan favourite after the injury absences of French star Franck Ribery in the first half of the season, notched a double either side of half-time following a Mergim Mavric own goal.

Croatian star Danijel Prandic completed the rout ten minutes after the restart. Christian Fuchs hit a consolation for Bochum, who are now in the bottom four.

“The players have digested the win over Juventus very well,” van Gaal enthused, “They were very concentrated and it’s been a great week, the best since I have been in Munich,” said the Dutchman, who is reportedly ready to let the out-of-favour Toni return to Italy. “We are only two points off top spot and that is very satisfying.”

Hamburg are only two points behind Bayern after a 4-0 destruction of Nuremberg with Eljero Elia scoring a double and Marcell Jansen and Tunay Torun likewise on target as all the goals came in the second half.

Hertha on Friday had Colombian Adrian Ramos to thank for both goals as the Berliners – winless since the opening day of the season – drew 2-2 with Leverkusen.

On Sunday, struggling Stuttgart travel to mid-table Mainz for Christian Gross’ first league game in charge since replacing Markus Babbel. Reigning champions VfL Wolfsburg host Borussia Dortmund with both sides hovering outside the top six.

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Meet the small German space mission that aims to improve life on earth

Holding its own against aerospace giants like pan-European Airbus Space or French-Italian Thales Alenia, Bremen-based minnow OHB has carved out a space as a national champion in satellite building.

Meet the small German space mission that aims to improve life on earth
Two satellites are manufactured in Bremen. Photo: DPA

Its latest coup was claiming a hefty slice of business from contracts signed in early July by the European Space Agency (ESA) as it builds up its Earth observation programme known as Copernicus.

Among the six new satellites, an OHB-built orbiter will keep an eye on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions stemming from human activity over the coming decades.

The aim: offering policymakers the data they need to find ways of reducing greenhouse gas output.

“Some space missions are mostly relevant to science. At OHB, we like projects that help people in their everyday lives,” chief executive Marco Fuchs told AFP.

Thales Alenia may have secured the lion's share of ESA orders this time around, but OHB is “ideally positioned” to play a role in “permanent observation of the Earth in environmental, climate and security terms”, Fuchs said.

READ ALSO: 10 breathtaking views of Germany from space

Germany's aerospace sector claimed around 30 percent of the “Copernicus 2.0” business, or €800 million.

That shows it is “well equipped to be competitive internationally”, believes Thomas Jarzombek, a lawmaker who tracks aerospace issues for Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party.

The sector has also been abuzz in recent months as Germany signalled ambitions to significantly ramp up the industry.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier raised hopes when he voiced support in October for a proposal from industry federation BDI to develop a space mission launch centre in Germany.

Family first

OHB's success with Copernicus was in part down to the laurels it earned working on Galileo, the ESA's other flagship programme offering satellite navigation to match the American GPS system.

The Bremen-based company with its 2,800 workers built around 20 of the satellites in the network.

Snatching that contract from under the nose of Airbus subsidiary Astrium in 2010 rocketed aerospace also-ran OHB into the ranks of top manufacturers.

When businesswoman Christa Fuchs bought the small company known as Otto Hydraulik Bremen in 1982, it had been repairing ships since its founding a quarter of a century before.

The satellites play a role in monitoring carbon emissions. Photo: obs/©OHB SE

But her husband, aerospace engineer Manfred Fuchs, joined the firm a few years later and piloted it off in a new direction — handing the controls over to his son Marco, a former corporate lawyer, in 2000.

The family holds 70 percent of the firm to this day, with the rest traded on the stock market and valued at a total €740 million.

The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on OHB, prompting the company to give up on paying out a dividend to shareholders this year as well as performance-related bonuses or pay rises to staff.

But it is pressing on with new projects, including developing its own rocket at a site in the Bavarian city of Augsburg to deliver small satellites into orbit.

'Try something new'

Typical of Germany's industrial backbone of successful small and medium-sized firms, OHB has resisted plans of French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire to bolt it together with France's Arianegroup and Italy's Avio.

“Merging Arianegroup and OHB would not improve the EU's space industry,” CEO Fuchs insists.

OHB itself has meanwhile set its sights on other related projects.

READ ALSO: Meet the Germans who want to move to Mars

Marco Fuchs argues that “the EU should try something new… in the telecommunications space”.

“Europe needs its own network of versatile satellites, like those being built by competitors like Project Starlink of Space X or Kuiper by Blue Origin,” he said.

Billionaire Elon Musk's Starlink programme and Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos' Kuiper aim to deliver connectivity to the remotest locations on land and sea.

Fuchs' plans may well fit the EU's ambitions.

European Commissioner Thierry Breton recently told France's Le Figaro daily that he would “very soon” propose plans for the EU to become more independent in broadband internet.

By Jean-Philippe Lacour