Alexander Gerst

Alexander Gerst during training
For his six-month stay on the ISS, Alexander Gerst trained at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.



In May 2009, Alexander Gerst was announced as one of six new ESA astronauts, having overcome stiff competition; there were 8413 applicants from 20 member states. After completing his two-year basic training with the Russian space organisation Roscosmos in Moscow and astronaut training at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, he was selected to become the third German astronaut to visit the International Space Station ISS.

Academic studies, doctorate and mission-specific training

Born on 3 May 1976 in Künzelsau in the Swabian region of south Germany, Gerst has always had a great interest in the Universe, the origin of the Moon and what might be hidden beyond the horizon. After completing secondary school, he studied geosciences at the University of Karlsruhe, before completing his Master of Science in the same subject in Wellington, New Zealand. He was a summer scholarship holder at the German Aerospace Center in 2006. Gerst completed his doctorate at the University of Hamburg in 2010, submitting a thesis on the eruption dynamics of the Antarctic volcano Mount Erebus. Pursuing his childhood dream, he applied to join the ESA Astronaut Training Division in 2008.

Blue Dot mission logo
Logo for the 'Blue Dot – Shaping the future' mission to the International Space Station by German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst.



The time finally arrived in August 2011. Alexander Gerst was named as a crew member for Expedition 40/41 to the ISS, joining Maxim Suraev from Russia and Reid Wiseman from the United States. Gerst's mission was named 'Blue Dot'. Specific preparations for the mission in the areas of medicine, aerospace engineering, space research and the Russian language lasted two years. On 28 May 2014 Gerst and his two colleagues took off from the Baikonur spaceport on board a Soyuz launch vehicle. During his six-month stay Gerst worked as a flight engineer for Expedition 40/41. In addition to numerous experiments in the areas of materials science, human physiology, radiation biology and astrophysics, Alexander Gerst was also responsible for the docking manoeuvre of the European transport vehicle ATV-5, as well as an extra-vehicular activity (spacewalk). After a mission lasting 165 days and eight hours, Gerst returned to Earth on 10 November 2014. After landing, Gerst received health checks and medical support at the German Aerospace Center in Cologne and elsewhere. At the same time the evaluation of the experiments he had carried out in space was started.

'horizons' mission logo
The ISS 'horizons' mission. During the mission, astronaut Alexander Gerst temporarily took on the task of commander.

DLR/ESA/Steinbeis Beratungszentren GmbH.


German President Joachim Gauck awarded Alexander Gerst the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, First Class, on 13 January 2015, in recognition of his contribution to science and his achievements on board the ISS. In addition, Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann also presented him with the Order of Merit of the State of Baden-Württemberg on 25 April 2015.

On 6 June 2018, Gerst flew to the ISS for a second time. During his mission, 'horizons – Knowledge for Tomorrow', he became the second European and first German to take command of the ISS. Gerst returned to Earth on 20 December 2018.