Born on 18 December 1956 in Mönchengladbach, Reinhold Ewald studied physics at the University of Cologne (Universität zu Köln), receiving his degree in 1983 and doctorate in 1986. He had already taken a first step towards the stars as a research associate at the German Research Foundation (Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft; DFG) from 1983 to 1987. His research focused on observing and analysing the dynamics of interstellar molecular clouds, which are thought to be the spawning grounds of new stars.
Upon receiving his doctorate, Ewald moved to the German Aviation and Spaceflight Research and Development Centre (Deutsche Forschungs- und Versuchsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DFVLR, a precursor of present-day DLR) as a research associate. Still fascinated by space, he worked on several space projects, eventually becoming the Coordinator of Spaceflight at DLR within the Planning Department.
His appointment to the astronaut team took place in 1990. Just like Sigmund Jähn 14 years before him, Ewald trained at the Yuri A. Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center at Swjosdny Gorodok (Star City) outside Moscow. However, it would be a while before he headed to space: Ewald served as a member of the backup-team for the Russo/German Mir '92 mission, and had responsibility for radio contact with the crew in flight. Subsequently, Ewald returned to DLR and became Deputy Head of the Astronaut Office. He was also involved in preparations for the 1993 D2 Spacelab mission, where his fellow countryman Ulrich Walter was among the crew.
It was in 1997, during the Russo/German Mir '97 mission that he had the chance to travel to space: Ewald took off aboard the Russian Soyuz TM 25 on 10 February as a scientific cosmonaut and spent 18 days aboard Russia's Mir space station. Mir '97 arose from a German initiative financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung; BMBF) and realised by the German Agency for Space Affairs (Deutschen Agentur für Raumfahrtangelegenheiten; DARA). Its objective was the continuation of the scientific programs of earlier Mir missions with German and/or European participation, so that previously developed experiments could be flown and new experiments performed.
From today's perspective, the 1970s and 80s technology used on Mir might seem irrelevant; however, in a DLR webcast, Ewald attested to the worthiness of the Russian orbital outpost, since much of the experience obtained while operating Mir has since been incorporated into the International Space Station (ISS) and has indeed contributed to its present technical state.
From the end of 2011 to April 2014, he worked as a member of the staff of the Director General of ESA at ESA Headquarters in Paris, and then again at the European Astronaut Centre, Cologne, from May 2014. Reinhold Ewald is currently working on topics related to human spaceflight, in particular the communication of scientific results. On 1 September 2015, he was appointed professor at the Institute of Space Systems at the University of Stuttgart, where he succeeds Ernst Messerschmid in the field of astronautics and space stations.