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Astro-Alex Takes Off Again

Astro Alex Takes Off Again
Astro Alex Takes Off Again

The astronaut Alexander Gerst is the first German commander of the International Space Station ISS. Five things you need to know about Astro-Alex.

Astro-Alex, social media astronaut, ambassador from space – that’s how the German astronaut Alexander Gerst likes to be called. The names already show that he is anything but an ordinary space explorer. The aerial photographs he took of the International Space Station ISS in 2014 are breathtaking: the tropical rainforest, vegetable fields in the Sahara, the Aswan Dam in Egypt – but some images, such as those from conflicts in the Middle East, dried-up lakes or deforested Forests are also thought-provoking. On June 6, 2018, the geophysicist starts again: he takes off for the second time at the ISS space station.

How did Alexander Gerst prepare?

For Alexander Gerst, the “Horizons” mission is already the second on the International Space Station ISS. For the first time in May 2014, he launched into space and conducted 50 scientific experiments. He prepared in the center of Cologne of the European Space Agency (ESA), in Houston, Texas, and in the settlement “Star City” near Moscow. In the legendary cosmonaut training center, Gerst and his colleagues mainly practiced controlling the Soyuz spaceships, the only manned connection to the ISS currently. The pilot and co-pilot must master the docking and unhitching maneuvers, as well as the on-board behavior. However, one of the tasks of preparation is to be upside down for 30 minutes a day, so that not too much water collects in the head and extremities during the start.

What does Alexander Gerst take into space?

The astronaut has put together a playlist of favorite tracks so he will not get bored on the launch pad during the pressure test. His followers on the social media channels were able to make suggestions. Now there are titles such as the Captain Future theme tune, “The Human Machine” (Kraftwerk) and “Astronaut” (Sido feat. Andreas Bourani). In addition, Gerst has a time capsule, a piece of Berlin Wall and cans with his favorite food in the luggage: cheese spaetzle, Maultaschen, plum dessert. But he promised to share with his colleagues.

Astro Alex Takes
Astro Alex Takes

With whom does Alexander Gerst fly into space?

The “Horizons” mission includes Gerst, the American Serena Auñón-Chancellor and the Russian Sergey Prokopjew. Gerst praises the cast: From the military pilot Prokopjew he could learn to decide in the steering of the Soyuz spaceship in seconds. And it is invaluable that with Auñón-Chancellor also a doctor is there. The team also this time includes assistant robot Cimon. He can lead dialogues and tell jokes. However, Cimon can not really do any work, that is, use tools or use a laser pointer: he has no arms.

How does the crew talk on the ISS?

Russian is spoken aboard the ISS because the Russian space agency controls the flight. “Learning Russian in three months was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced in education,” said Gerst before his first mission in 2014.

Which tasks are to be assigned to Alexander Gerst?

On the flight with the Soyuz spaceship, which is scheduled to start in the Kazakh Baikonur on 6 June, Gerst is not yet in command. This role is traditionally taken over by the Russian cosmonaut. Gerst will be a copilot and sit in the Soyuz capsule to the left of pilot Sergei Prokopyev. Gerst will face dozens of scientific experiments at the ISS. He is to investigate about granules, crystal growth, metals and the human immune system. It’s about the understanding of the universe – and the benefits of this knowledge on earth. The last three months of the mission will be Gerst Commander of the ISS, becoming the first German ever. As a commander, he must always keep track and respond immediately in the event of a fire or pressure loss. He also has to help the crew to avoid overloading. Alexander Gerst is convinced: “We can all do so much, much more than we think.”


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