Hans Schlegel became Germany's fifth German astronaut in orbit when he lifted off on 26 April 1993 as part of the second German Spacelab mission (D2). With him were German Ulrich Walter and five American astronauts. The multidisciplinary mission hosted 88 experiments in the fields of materials and life sciences, technology development, automation and robotics, as well as Earth and space observation. Some 11 nations participated in the experiments that were performed.
Hans Schlegel was born on 3 August 1951 in Überlingen/Friedrichshafen. On completion of his university entrance examinations in 1970, he served for two years in the German Federal Defence Force (Bundeswehr), where he trained in the parachute regiment. Thereafter he studied physics at the RWTH (Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule) Aachen University, graduating in 1979. He also took his first career steps at RWTH by becoming a research assistant in experimental solid-state physics. He worked as a process specialist in non-destructive materials testing at the Research and Development Department of the 'Institut Dr. Friedrich Förster GmbH & Co. KG' in Reutlingen between 1986 and 1988.
In 1988 Schlegel began his astronaut training at DLR. He can look back at about 1300 parabolic trajectories flown aboard a KC-135, while he was performing various experiments. In 1990 he was appointed payload specialist aboard the D2 mission. His preparatory training for the scientific experiments took place at both DLR in Cologne and the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas.
In 1998, five years after his first space flight, Schlegel was assimilated into ESA's European Astronaut Corps and trained as a mission specialist at JSC with NASA's yearly astronaut intake. However, his first flight was not to be his last; 15 years after his first space flight, Schlegel, now a senior ESA astronaut at JSC, flew into space again on 7 February 2008. He received almost two years of training in order to be optimally prepared for the mission. The objective of the STS-122 mission was to attach ESA's Columbus laboratory module onto the International Space Station (ISS). Columbus, with a planned lifespan of 10 years, is the first European space laboratory intended for long-term research in space. Columbus was transported to the ISS by the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
Hans Schlegel continues to work in his capacity as chief ESA astronaut.