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Science & Exploration

N° 28–2006: ESA astronaut Hans Schlegel assigned to European Columbus laboratory mission to the ISS

20 July 2006

ESA astronaut Hans Schlegel of Germany has been named today to fly on the Space Shuttle mission that will deliver the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station in September/October 2007. ESA’s Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain announced the assignment on the occasion of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s official visit to ESA’s Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.


Veteran NASA space flier Navy Cmdr. Stephen Frick will command the STS-122 Shuttle mission (orbiter Discovery), while Navy Cmdr. Alan Poindexter will serve as pilot. Mission Specialists include Air Force Col. Rex Walheim, Stanley Love and Leland Melvin. For Poindexter, Love and Melvin, this will be their first spaceflight. Schlegel, a member of the European Astronaut Corps since 1998, first flew on Shuttle mission STS-55 (Spacelab D-2) from 26 April to 6 May 1993.

On this new mission, Schlegel will be taking on a key role: he will be involved in the installation, fitting-out and initial commissioning of ESA’s Columbus laboratory. Columbus is the cornerstone of Europe’s contribution to the International Space Station and is the first European laboratory devoted to long-term research in space.

Columbus will be transported to the Station in the cargo bay of the Shuttle together with five internal rack facilities (Biolab, the Fluid Science Laboratory, the European Physiology Modules facility, the European Drawer Rack and the European Transport Carrier). The two external experiment facilities for Columbus (EuTEF and SOLAR) will also be travelling separately in the cargo bay and will be attached onto the outside of the laboratory module structure during Schlegel’s flight.

Note for editors

Following the launch of the mission from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida, the Shuttle will take two days to rendezvous and dock with the ISS. Columbus will be lifted out of the Shuttle’s cargo bay by Canada’s Space Station robotic arm (Canadarm 2) and placed in position on the starboard side docking port of the European-developed Node 2 on flight day four. Once attached to the ISS, and following power-up of the module, the Columbus payload rack facilities will be moved from their launch configuration to their operational locations in the module.

Three spacewalks (extra-vehicular activities) are scheduled during this mission. The first will help to install and power-up Columbus. A second EVA will serve to install the external payloads. The payload rack facilities will also be checked out. The third EVA will serve to install a nitrogen tank assembly on the Station, a task not directly related to the Columbus part of the mission. Final commissioning of the laboratory and its initial scientific experiments will take place during the weeks following the end of the Shuttle mission and will be carried out by the resident ISS crew.

Once Columbus is attached to the Station, the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany, on the premises of the DLR's space operations centre, will be responsible for the control and operation of the European laboratory. The Centre will also coordinate European experiment operations.

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Hans Schlegel

Biographical summary

Personal data

Born 3 August 1951 in Überlingen, Germany, but considers Aachen to be his hometown. Married to Astronaut Heike Schlegel-Walpot. Has seven children. Recreational interests include skiing, scuba diving and flying. Also enjoys reading and being a handyman.


Spent 1968/69 in the USA as an American Field Service exchange student and graduated from Lewis Central High School, Council Bluffs, Iowa. In 1970, graduated from the Hansa Gymnasium secondary school in Cologne, Germany specialising in mathematics and science. In 1979, awarded a Masters in Physics from the University of Aachen, Germany.

Membership of organisations

Member of Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (German society of physics) and of "AFS-Interkulturelle Begegnungen" (American Field Service Germany).

Special honours

Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse des Verdienstordens der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Service Cross 1st Class, Federal Republic of Germany), Russian Medal of Friendship, NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal.


From 1970-72, served as a paratrooper with the Federal armed forces. Left with the rank of second lieutenant, and after several reserve training stints appointed reserve lieutenant in 1980. From 1979-86, worked as an experimental solid state physicist at the Rheinisch Westfälische Technische Hochschule, University of Aachen, carrying out research in the fields of electronic transport properties and optical properties of semiconductors. From 1986-88, was a specialist in non-destructive testing methodology in the R&D department of the company "Institut Dr. Förster Gmbh & Co. KG" in Reutlingen, Germany.

From 1988 to 1990, performed basic astronaut training at DLR, German Aerospace Centre. This included academic education and microgravity experience gained by conducting various experiments during approximately 1300 parabulas on KC-135. Became a certified research diver and holds a private pilot’s licence, covering instrument rating and aerobatics.

In 1990, was assigned to be Payload Specialist for the D-2 mission and started payload training in Cologne and at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. This second German Spacelab mission successfully took place from 26 April to 6 May 1993 (STS-55/Columbia).

In August 1995, went to the Yuri A. Gagarin Training Centre (Moscow) to train for the German-Russian Mir’97 mission as a backup. During that mission (10 February to 2 March 1997), served as crew interface coordinator responsible for ground-to-air communications. Between June 1997 and January 1998, received additional training and certification as 2nd board engineer for the Russian space station Mir.

In 1998, joined the European Astronaut Corps of the European Space Agency. Sent to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for training as a Mission Specialist with the NASA Astronaut Class of ’98. Since then, training has included T-38 jet flying, Shuttle rendezvous & docking, robotics and EVA. In addition to their training, astronauts are also assigned various tasks within NASA. Schlegel worked in the ISS Branch on mechanisms & structures, crew equipment and ISS systems. He also worked in the Robotics Branch and as ISS capsule communicator, conducting voice communication with the Space Station. In that function, NASA appointed him lead ISS CAPCOM for Increment 10.

Spaceflight experience

From 26 April to 6 May 1993, served as Payload Specialist on STS-55 aboard Space Shuttle Columbia. Nearly 90 experiments were conducted during the German Spacelab D-2 mission which involved investigations in the life sciences, material sciences, physics, robotics, astronomy as well as the Earth and its atmosphere.

Current assignment

Since May 2005, Schlegel has been ESA lead astronaut at JSC and since September 2005 has been working as Shuttle CAPCOM, ISS Instructor CAPCOM and in the ISS Branch as lead for systems and crew interfaces, heading a team of 12. July 2006, assigned to the STS-122/1E Shuttle mission that will deliver the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory to the International Space Sation.


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