Astrolab mission facts

Space Shuttle Discovery at Launch Pad 39B
Astrolab launched with Space Shuttle Discovery

ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter is the first European astronaut to undertake a long-duration mission to the International Space Station. He was launched into space on Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-121 on 4 July 2006.

Shortly after arrival Thomas became a member of the Expedition 13 crew. In September the crew rotation took place and Thomas joined Expedition 14.

The Astrolab mission lasted five and a half months, concluding when Thomas returned to Earth with Shuttle mission STS-116, landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, on 22 December 2006.

Astrolab back-up astronaut:
ESA astronaut Léopold Eyharts

STS-121 Crew

  • Commander Steve Lindsey (NASA)
  • Pilot Mark Kelly (NASA)
  • Mission Specialist Mike Fossum (NASA)
  • Mission Specialist Lisa Nowak (NASA)
  • Mission Specialist Stephanie Wilson (NASA)
  • Mission Specialist Piers Sellers (NASA)
  • Mission Specialist Thomas Reiter (ESA)


Launch STS-121

Launch date:
4 July 2006, 20:38 CEST (18:38 UT)
Two earlier launch attempts on 1 and 2 July were scrubbed due to weather conditions.
Launch site:
Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Launch vehicle:
Space Shuttle Discovery

Arrival at the International Space Station

6 July 2006, 16:52 CEST (14:52 UT)
Hatch opening:
6 July 2006, 18:52 CEST (16:52 UT)

Return STS-121*
(Thomas remained on the International Space Station)

*A third spacewalk was scheduled for Flight Day 9 (Wednesday 12 July) and the STS-121 mission was extended by one day.

Hatch closure:
15 July 2006, 08:15 CEST (06:15 UT)
15 July 2006, 10:08 CEST (08:08 UT)
17 July 2006, 15:14 CEST (13:14 UT) at KSC, Florida

On the Station

Expedition 13 crew
• Commander Pavel Vinogradov (Russia)
• Flight Engineer 1 Jeff Williams (NASA)
• From the moment Thomas' Soyuz seatliner was transferred to the Soyuz TMA-8 vehicle shortly after arrival on 6 July 2006, Thomas joined Expedition 13 crew as Flight Engineer 2.

On 20 September 2006 the next Expedition arrived at the Station on the Soyuz TMA-9 vehicle - shortly after their arrival Thomas became a member of Expedition 14.

After the crew exchange, Vinogradov and Williams returned to Earth with the Soyuz TMA-8 spacecraft together with space tourist Anousheh Ansari. Thomas remained on the Station as Flight Engineer 2 for Expedition 14.

Expedition 14 crew
• Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria (NASA)
• Flight Engineer 1 Mikhail Tyurin (Russia)
• Flight Engineer 2 Thomas Reiter (ESA) - until arrival of Space Shuttle flight STS-116
• Flight Engineer 2 Sunita Williams (NASA) - after arrival on Space Shuttle flight STS-116

Sunita Williams replaced Thomas Reiter as Expedition 14 Flight Engineer 2 on 11 December 2006 shortly after her arrival with Discovery. At that point Reiter became a member of the STS-116 descent crew.

Back-up crew Expedition 14
• Commander Peggy Whitson (NASA)
• Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko (Russia)
• Flight Engineer Clay Anderson (NASA)

Discovery lands at KSC
Space Shuttle Discovery lands at KSC


Thomas returned to Earth on Space Shuttle Discovery with the rest of the STS-116 crew.

Hatch closure:
19 December 2006, 20:42 CET (19:42 UT)
19 December 2006, 23:10 CET (22:10 UT)
22 December 2006, 23:32 CEST (22:32 UT) at KSC, Florida

Last update: 1 February 2013

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