Back to Index French German
Science & Exploration

N° 35–2018: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst returns to Earth – for the second time

20 December 2018

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst returned to Earth today alongside NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev.

Returning in the same Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft that flew them to the International Space Station on 6 June 2018, the trio landed in the Kazakh steppe on 20 December at 05:02 GMT (06:02 CET).

Alexander is now flying directly to Cologne, Germany, where he will continue to be monitored by ESA’s space medicine team as he readapts to Earth’s gravity at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre (EAC) and DLR’s ‘:envihab’ facility.

Alexander’s return to Earth marks the successful conclusion of his Horizons mission – a mission in which he performed over 60 European experiments in space, became the second ever European commander of the International Space Station, welcomed six resupply vehicles, installed the first commercial facility for research in the Columbus laboratory, delivered an important message on climate change for leaders at the COP24 climate change conference and captured real-time footage of a Soyuz launch abort.

A number of scientific experiments also returned to Earth alongside the crew in the Soyuz. One of these, known as Dosis 3D, provides greater insight into the dose and distribution of radiation on board the Station. It is just one of many experiments that will deliver benefits for Earth as well as human and robotic exploration as Europe prepares for future missions to the Moon and beyond.

Alexander has now spent a total of 363 full non-consecutive days living and working on board the International Space Station, and joined international partners on 20 November in celebrating 20 years of collaboration on the greatest international project of all time.

Media are invited to Alexander’s first public appearance after his Horizons mission at EAC on Saturday, 22 December. He will be joined for this one-hour event by ESA Director General Jan Wörner and Head of EAC Frank De Winne, who will be available to answer questions after providing short statements. Further info can be found below.

Highlights of the mission have also been well documented with a large selection of images captured by Alexander available to view and download on Flickr

Video content from his time in space is also available on YouTube and regular mission updates can be found on the Horizons blog

The press conference on 22 December at EAC starts at 11:15 CET and will run until 12:15 CET. It will also be available to follow online at

The event will be held in German and in English and the schedule is as follows:

  • Arrival from: 10:00 CET 
  • News conference: 11:15 to 12:15 CET
  • End: 13:00 CET  

There are limited interview opportunities with ESA Director General Jan Wörner and Head of EAC Frank De Winne (ESA ISS operations and astronaut group lead), immediately after this event. Please note: there will be no opportunity for any one-on-one interviews with ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst because of operational reasons. 

Media should register their attendance in advance of this event via The final day for registrations is 21 December, 2018.


For further information, please contact:

ESA EAC Communications Office


Phone: +49 2203 6001 111


About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member.

ESA has established formal cooperation with six Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space. ESA also has a strong applications programme developing services in Earth observation, navigation and telecommunications.

Learn more about ESA at