So you want to be an astronaut? On Friday 17 September you can find out exactly what it takes during the 'Night of the astronauts' event in the KölnArena in Cologne, Germany. During a unique evening of entertainment, members of the European Astronaut Corps will take you on a journey to the International Space Station.
The trip of a lifetime
Through live interviews with the astronauts, and using visual effects, including a special laser show, 3-D images and video footage recorded on board the International Space Station, the story of human spaceflight will be brought to life right in front of you.
First you will join the astronauts for an intensive period of training. You will have to prepare for every eventuality, right down to the last detail, practicing again and again.
You will learn how to conduct numerous scientific experiments, spend hours submersed in a large swimming pool during EVA training, and even how to survive out in the wilds of Kazakhstan.
So now you are ready for your mission, what comes next? The experienced astronauts talk you through the last few days leading up to the launch; can you keep your nerves under control?
Finally launch day arrives. You will walk out to the launch pad with the astronauts. 3...2...1... lift-off! Even for those who have been here before - wow, it's so exhilarating!
Reaching the ISS, the permanent crew give you a warm welcome; they are really pleased to see some new faces. Moving around will be a little awkward to begin with – push off of one wall a little too forcefully and things get out of control.
Take in your new surroundings. "You can’t believe all the objects hanging on the walls, things are stored everywhere. Some parts of the Station feel bigger than expected, others – like the Russian part – smaller," says Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne who visited the Station in October 2002.
Now and then you might steal a moment at the window to take in the beauty of planet Earth, but there's no time to waste. There's work to be done. Every minute of each day has been carefully planned; there is a whole team back down on Earth relying on you.
A whole new way of living
The veteran's of spaceflight will give you some useful tips about living and working in this unusual environment. Dutch astronaut André Kuipers, "When you are working it is quite tricky, each movement is really slow and you have to be careful about where you leave things, otherwise they just float away."
Gradually you learn to find your way around, although with all the different modules, sometimes it is hard to get your bearings. Imagine though what it will be like in the future when the Station is completed. The astronauts will show you the European contributions and take you though the plans for the future of human spaceflight.
The evening will culminate with the journey back to Earth. After a busy schedule, the astronauts finally find some quieter moments for reflection, before preparing for the bumpy ride back home.
All the training at Star City just cannot prepare you fully for the landing with the Soyuz, "You really come down hard. There is a warning light and an alarm to signal that you need brace yourself. But it remains a tense moment. You don't quite know when it is going to happen," warns Spanish astronaut Pedro Duque.
The 'Night of the astronauts' will be co-hosted by Ulf Merbold, the first ESA astronaut to fly to space.
As well as current and ex-members of the European Astronaut Corps, special guests include Gemini and Apollo astronaut John Young, and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, a veteran of five spaceflights with both Soyuz and Shuttle launch vehicles, who has visited Mir and ISS.
One of the main highlights of the evening will be a live link-up with the current residents of the ISS, the Expedition nine crew, Russian cosmonaut Gennadi Padalka and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke.
Tickets for the 'Night of the astronauts' can be purchased through the KölnArena hotline +49 221 2801 (tickets cost €15 to €30). The evening starts at 20:00 on Friday 17 September.
The 'Night of the astronauts' event marks the start of German Space Day activities, which will follow on 18-19 September, for more information see http://www.tagderraumfahrt.de/