At the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 56 astronauts NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Roscosmos commander Sergei Prokopyev and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst pose in their Sokol suits in front of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft that will launch them into space. They will be launched 6 June for a six-month mission on the International Space Station.
Alexander's mission is called Horizons to evoke exploring our Universe, looking far beyond our planet and broadening our knowledge. His first mission was called Blue Dot. Alexander will take over command of the International Space Station for the second half of his mission. This is only the second time that a European astronaut will take up this leading position on the space outpost – the first was ESA astronaut Frank De Winne in 2009. Alexander Gerst is the 11th German citizen to fly into space.
The science programme is packed with European research: more than 50 experiments will deliver benefits to people back on Earth and prepare for future space exploration.