On Wednesday 17 May over 20 astronauts from eight European countries will gather at ESA's European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, to celebrate the centre's 10th anniversary.
On the threshold of the new era for space exploration starting with the International Space Station, pioneers from the early days of Europe's involvement in human spaceflight and today's 16-strong European astronaut corps will come together for the first time to discuss Europe's preparations for the years ahead.
These astronauts represent more than two decades of Europe's endeavours in spaceflight and research. To date 27 Europeans have taken part in 31 spaceflights. From the days of the Soviet Salyut stations to Russia's Mir, from the first Space Shuttle flights to the International Space Station now under construction - they have had a hand in making the history of human presence in space.
Astronauts at the meeting will include:
Europe does not yet have its own means of carrying humans into space, but has gained vast experience by working with the US and Russia. It began with the Soviets during the Cold War and continued until the last crew returned from Mir in the summer of 1999. Cooperation with NASA began in the 1960s with unmanned missions and has continued through 17 Shuttle flights. Today 16 countries worldwide, including 10 European states, are pooling resources to build and operate the largest ever structure in space, the International Space Station.
The European Astronaut Centre, the European astronauts' home base, is located on the perimeter of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) in Cologne. During the past ten years the EAC has provided training and medical support to ESA astronauts on the ground and during missions.
For the International Space Station, crews will come to Cologne to be trained in operation of the ESA contribution to ISS: the Columbus Laboratory, the Automated Transfer Vehicle and a number of payload facilities for scientific experiments. The training schemes are under preparation and the facilities are being developed. The first International Space Station crews are expected for training at the EAC in about two years.
Note to editors: Media are welcome to attend the event at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, on the morning of Wednesday 17 May. For those unable to be present, there will be remote interview opportunities in the afternoon. For more information, contact Clare Mattok, ESA Communications, Tel: +33 1 53 69 74 12.