Born on 3 August 1951 in Überlingen, Germany, Hans Schlegel considers Aachen to be his hometown. Hans is married to astronaut candidate Heike Walpot. He has seven children. Recreational interests include skiing, scuba diving and flying. He also enjoys reading and do-it-yourself work.
During 1970–72 Hans served as a paratrooper with the Federal Armed Forces. He left with the rank of second lieutenant, and after several reserve trainings, he was appointed reserve lieutenant in 1980. In 1979–86 he worked as an experimental Solid State Physicist at the Rheinisch Westfälische Technische Hochschule at the University of Aachen and researched electronic transport properties and optical properties of semiconductors. During 1986–88 he was a specialist in non-destructive testing methodology in the research and development department of the Institut Dr. Förster Gmbh & Co. KG in Reutlingen, Germany.
From 1988 to 1990 Hans performed basic astronaut training at the DLR German Aerospace Center. The training included about 1300 parabolas to experience weightlessness on a KC-135 aircraft. He became a certified research diver and holds a private pilot’s licence, including instrument rating and aerobatics.
In 1990 he was assigned as a payload specialist for the Spacelab-D2 mission and started Payload Training in Cologne, Germany and at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The second German Spacelab mission took place from 26 April to 6 May 1993 as part of mission STS-55 on Space Shuttle Columbia.
In August 1995 Hans went to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Moscow, Russia, to train as backup for the German–Russian Mir-97 mission. During the mission from 10 February to 2 March 1997 he was Crew Interface Coordinator responsible for ground-to-air communications. Between June 1997 and January 1998 he received additional training and certification as a flight engineer for Russia’s Mir space station.
In 1998 Hans joined ESA’s Astronaut Corps. In August 1998, ESA sent him to the Johnson Space Center to train as a Mission Specialist with NASA’s Astronaut Class of 1998. He was also assigned to the Capcom Branch of the Astronaut Office, speaking to astronauts on the International Space Station. He worked as lead Capcom and as Space Station Capcom Instructor.
In July 2006 Hans was assigned to the STS-122 Shuttle mission that delivered ESA’s Columbus Laboratory to the International Space Station.
From 26 April to 6 May 1993, Schlegel was Payload Specialist on Space Shuttle Columbia STS-55 Spacelab-D2 mission. Nearly 90 experiments in life sciences, material sciences, physics, robotics, astronomy, Earth and its atmosphere were conducted during Spacelab D2.
Hans’ second spaceflight, STS-122, launched 7 February 2008 on Space Shuttle Atlantis ended on 20 February 2008. The highlight was the delivery and installation of ESA’s Columbus laboratory, Europe’s major contribution to the International Space Station. Hans performed a spacewalk that lasted nearly seven hours to help prepare the space laboratory for its scientific experiments, and replaced an empty nitrogen tank on the Station’s P1 Truss.