New challenge for ESA astronaut Fuglesang
Astronaut Christer Fuglesang, a veteran of two spaceflights, has a new mission: on 1 May he took up a new job heading the ESA department in charge of the scientific exploitation of the International Space Station.
Flying in space is only a fraction of the work undertaken by astronauts. Between flights and after stepping down as active astronauts, their impressive hands-on experience of working in space can benefit other space missions. Many astronauts have continued in other jobs to support spaceflights.
Christer Fuglesang, ESA’s Swedish astronaut, is the latest to follow this path: he is now Head of the Science and Applications Division in the International Space Station (ISS) Utilisation Department of ESA’s Directorate of Human Spaceflight.
"Of course I will miss flying in space and not having the chance to fly a long-duration mission on the ISS," says Christer, "but given that flight opportunities are limited, one should also leave room for the newcomers!"
New horizons for ISS
Christer, a particle physicist who became an astronaut, is responsible for promoting the use of the Station – especially Europe’s Columbus laboratory – for scientific research and as a testbed for future human exploration missions.
"One of my main challenges will be widening the scope of the research made and enlarging the user community," Christer says.
He believes that research on the ISS could include even more interdisciplinary studies in areas such as climate change, chemistry, cosmic science and radiation.
"The research made in space can also help applied sciences, technology and industry, and thus be for the benefit of society at large. I’d also like to encourage new ESA member states to participate to the ELIPS programme."
ELIPS (European Programme for Life and Physical Sciences in Space) uses the ISS and other carriers such as sounding rockets and unmanned spacecraft for research into fundamental and applied life and physical sciences.
Most experienced spacewalker in Europe
Christer, born in 1957 in Stockholm, Sweden, received a doctorate in physics in 1987. He then worked at CERN, Europe’s research centre for particle physics, in Geneva until May 1992, when he was selected to join the European Astronaut Corps.
He completed basic astronaut training in 1993 and prepared as a backup crewmember for the Euromir-95 mission. In 1996 he trained on Soyuz operations in Russia and entered the Mission Specialist Class at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston. He qualified for flight assignment in April 1998.
In 2006 he flew on the STS-116 Space Shuttle mission to the ISS as a Mission Specialist and made three spacewalks, including an unscheduled sortie to release jammed solar panel.
Three years later, Christer flew as a Mission Specialist on STS-128 to the ISS and made two spacewalks. With a total EVA time of 31 hours and 54 minutes, he is the record-holder among European astronauts.
During his time as an astronaut, Christer has continued with his own scientific work. He has written two books and will continue to make public and ambassadorial appearances as an ESA astronaut: "This will also help to spread the word about the research possibilities of the ISS."