ESA's Ulf Merbold on Spacelab-1
ESA astronaut Ulf Merbold in Spacelab

Founded in 1990, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) formed the home base for three astronauts. They had been selected for the first Spacelab mission with German astronaut Ulf Merbold flying in 1983. Since then the number of European astronauts that have flown in space has grown substantially and most of them were supported by the European Astronaut Centre.

In 1998, ESA formed a single European Astronaut Corps, joining forces with national astronaut teams to reinforce the European identity. By 2002 the Corps had grown to include 16 astronauts all based at EAC in Cologne, Germany.

As ESA’s involvement in the International Space Station grew, the European Astronaut Centre grew with it, enlarging its training facilities and programmes to incorporate new hardware and procedures. From the start of Europe’s space laboratory Columbus, launched in 2007, EAC has been training astronauts from around the world in procedures to keep the laboratory running. A life-size mock-up is available at the Centre for practical training.

ATV mockup

Next to the Columbus training facility is a realistic interior of ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). The first spacecraft in the series, ATV Jules Verne,was launched in 2008 and delivered cargo and fuel to the International Space Station. From the first ATV onwards astronauts have been trained at EAC in monitoring the docking as well as safety and unloading procedures.

The European Astronaut Centre designed and conducted a year-long recruitment campaign for ESA’s astronaut selection resulting in the announcement of six new astronauts in 2009. The astronauts followed their basic training at EAC and the Centre is their home base as they continue their specific training at other training centres around the world.

Last update: 29 November 2013

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