Astrolab launched with Space Shuttle Discovery
Science & Exploration

Astrolab mission facts

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ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Astrolab

ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter is the first European astronaut to undertake a long-duration mission to the International Space Station. He was launched into space on Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-121 on 4 July 2006.

Shortly after arrival Thomas became a member of the Expedition 13 crew. In September the crew rotation took place and Thomas joined Expedition 14.

The Astrolab mission lasted five and a half months, concluding when Thomas returned to Earth with Shuttle mission STS-116, landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, on 22 December 2006.

Astrolab back-up astronaut:
ESA astronaut Léopold Eyharts

STS-121 Crew

  • Commander Steve Lindsey (NASA)
  • Pilot Mark Kelly (NASA)
  • Mission Specialist Mike Fossum (NASA)
  • Mission Specialist Lisa Nowak (NASA)
  • Mission Specialist Stephanie Wilson (NASA)
  • Mission Specialist Piers Sellers (NASA)
  • Mission Specialist Thomas Reiter (ESA)


Launch STS-121

Launch date:
4 July 2006, 20:38 CEST (18:38 UT)
Two earlier launch attempts on 1 and 2 July were scrubbed due to weather conditions.
Launch site:
Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Launch vehicle:
Space Shuttle Discovery

Arrival at the International Space Station

6 July 2006, 16:52 CEST (14:52 UT)
Hatch opening:
6 July 2006, 18:52 CEST (16:52 UT)

Return STS-121*
(Thomas remained on the International Space Station)

*A third spacewalk was scheduled for Flight Day 9 (Wednesday 12 July) and the STS-121 mission was extended by one day.

Hatch closure:
15 July 2006, 08:15 CEST (06:15 UT)
15 July 2006, 10:08 CEST (08:08 UT)
17 July 2006, 15:14 CEST (13:14 UT) at KSC, Florida

On the Station

Expedition 13 crew
• Commander Pavel Vinogradov (Russia)
• Flight Engineer 1 Jeff Williams (NASA)
• From the moment Thomas' Soyuz seatliner was transferred to the Soyuz TMA-8 vehicle shortly after arrival on 6 July 2006, Thomas joined Expedition 13 crew as Flight Engineer 2.

On 20 September 2006 the next Expedition arrived at the Station on the Soyuz TMA-9 vehicle - shortly after their arrival Thomas became a member of Expedition 14.

After the crew exchange, Vinogradov and Williams returned to Earth with the Soyuz TMA-8 spacecraft together with space tourist Anousheh Ansari. Thomas remained on the Station as Flight Engineer 2 for Expedition 14.

Expedition 14 crew
• Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria (NASA)
• Flight Engineer 1 Mikhail Tyurin (Russia)
• Flight Engineer 2 Thomas Reiter (ESA) - until arrival of Space Shuttle flight STS-116
• Flight Engineer 2 Sunita Williams (NASA) - after arrival on Space Shuttle flight STS-116

Sunita Williams replaced Thomas Reiter as Expedition 14 Flight Engineer 2 on 11 December 2006 shortly after her arrival with Discovery. At that point Reiter became a member of the STS-116 descent crew.

Back-up crew Expedition 14
• Commander Peggy Whitson (NASA)
• Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko (Russia)
• Flight Engineer Clay Anderson (NASA)

Space Shuttle Discovery lands at KSC
Space Shuttle Discovery lands at KSC


Thomas returned to Earth on Space Shuttle Discovery with the rest of the STS-116 crew.

Hatch closure:
19 December 2006, 20:42 CET (19:42 UT)
19 December 2006, 23:10 CET (22:10 UT)
22 December 2006, 23:32 CEST (22:32 UT) at KSC, Florida