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Hitching a ride into space

Alexander Gerst is the third German researcher on board the ISS.

© picture-alliance/dpa - Alexander Gerst

When Alexander Gerst from Baden-Württemberg looks out 
of the window, he sees the world from a completely different perspective than a few months ago: he is floating above the Earth at an altitude of 400 kilometres. However, enjoying the breathtaking view of the globe isn’t the only reason why he is spending six months in space. On 28 May 2014, Gerst blasted off in a Russian capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) 
as a scientist astronaut and flight engineer of the Blue Dot mission. He will be conducting over 100 experiments in different scientific disciplines until November.

In one NASA experiment, for example, the 38-year-old geo­physicist is studying how different substances react to fire 
in zero gravity. And in another, for ESA, he is investigating the mixing behaviour of emulsions. He will be conducting many 
of his experiments on his own body. Among other things, he will be examining the changes in his internal clock, his body mass and his skin while in space. In an experiment he is carrying out on behalf of school students, he will examine how long soap bubbles last in the cosmos. They won the Action 42 competition with their research idea. The German astronaut has five “room mates” on board the ISS: US astronauts Reid Wiseman and Steven Swanson and Russians Maxim Suraev, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev. After Thomas Reiter and Hans Schlegel, Gerst is the third German on board the International Space Station and the eleventh German researcher in space overall.