Germans in space – there are not many. You could count them only on both hands. The corresponding missions are legendary in Germany: the flights with Spacelab 1, D1 and D-2 missions, visits to the space station MIR, and survey of the earth during the radar mission SRTM with the Space Shuttle. Only two German astronauts have visited the International Space Station so far: Thomas Reiter for his Astrolab mission 2006 and Hans Schlegel for the installation of the Columbus Module 2008. Next year, the German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will start his first space flight. This will be the first long-term stay of a German on the ISS, for which the ESA control center at the DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen will be in charge.
Due to the significance of this mission, the preparation work is already underway. Every week until launch, Alexander Gerst will attend training sessions in the United States, Russia, Japan and Germany in preparation for the mission. In spite of this demanding schedule, Mr. Gerst visited Oberpfaffenhofen for two days at the end of April. Several co-ordination meetings were on the schedule to ensure a good co-operation during the mission between the astronaut and “his control center.” ESA Mission Director Berti Meisinger and DLR Flight Director German Zoeschinger introduced Mr. Gerst to the flight control team, and explained their operations. Mr. Gerst followed the events in the control room and made several agreements for the communication between the ISS and Oberpfaffenhofen.
Messrs. Zoeschinger and Gerst emphasized the importance of the personal relationship, even in such a highly-professional and clearly-defined operation like manned space flight. So the evening was spent in the pleasant atmosphere of a Munich restaurant. To work together with friends is obviously easier than working with strangers …..
Mr. Gerst will fly to the ISS with a Russian Soyuz rocket and work there approximately half a year. As a geophysicist with a doctor’s degree, he is excited for the opportunity to watch volcanoes from another perspective – from space - since he spent a lot of time in his scientific career on that subject. As one of the main control centers for the ISS, the ESA Columbus Control Center, operated by DLR, will support him around the clock.