Astro Alex is lifting off again

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

Alexander Gerst
Alexander Gerst dpa

Astro Alex, social-media astronaut, space ambassador – these are some of German astronaut Alexander Gerst’s nicknames – and they show that he’s no ordinary space explorer. The aerial photographs he took from the International Space Station ISS in 2014 are breath-taking. And the geophysicist is off again on 6 June 2018; that’s when he’ll be blasting off to the ISS space station for the second time.

How has Alexander Gerst prepared?

Alexander Gerst did his preparation at the European Space Agency (ESA) centre in Cologne, in Houston, Texas, and at the ‘Star City’ settlement near Moscow. That included standing on his head for 30 minutes a day, among other things – so that he doesn’t get too much fluid collecting in his head and extremities during the launch.

What will Alexander Gerst take with him into space?

The astronaut has put together a play list of his favourite songs so he doesn’t get bored during the pressure test on the launch pad. His social media followers were able to make some suggestions. So now he has tracks with him like the Captain Future title melody ‘The Man-Machine’ (Kraftwerk) and ‘Astronaut’ (Sido feat. Andreas Bourani). Gerst is also taking with him a time capsule, a piece of the Berlin Wall, and some cans of his favourite food.

Who will Alexander Gerst be flying with into space?

In addition to Gerst, the ‘Horizons’ mission team includes an American, Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and a Russian, Sergej Prokopjew. Assistant Robot Cimon is also part of the team. He can hold a dialogue and tell jokes. However, Cimon can’t do proper work: he doesn’t have any arms.

What language does the ISS crew use? 

Russian is spoken on board the ISS, since the Russian space agency is in charge of the flight. “Learning Russian in three months was the toughest part of the training so far,” says Gerst. 

We can all do much, much more than we think.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst

What will be Alexander Gerst’s tasks?

Gerst will not yet be in command on the flight with the Soyuz space ship, which is due to be launched on 6 June in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Traditionally, this role is played by the Russian cosmonaut. Gerst will be co-pilot and sit next to pilot Sergey Prokopjew in the Soyuz capsule. On the ISS, Gerst will conduct dozens of scientific experiments. It’s all about understanding space – and the benefits of this knowledge on the Earth. For the final three months of the mission, Gerst will take on the role of ISS commander – the first German to do so.