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ESA astronaut ready for launch to International Space Station.

International Space Station

International Space Station (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will lift off from the Russian Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 20:56 GMT (21:56 pm CEST) on 28 May, heading to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. This will be the start of his six-month ‘Blue Dot’ mission as a scientist and flight engineer on the Station’s Expeditions 40 and 41.

As part of his mission, Alexander will perform dozens of experiments in physics, biology, human physiology and radiation. A highlight will be the installation and commissioning of the German-built MSL-EML electromagnetic levitator, a facility aimed for containerless materials processing in space. ESA’s ATV-5 cargo vessel will deliver the facility in July.

Alexander, aged 38, holds a doctorate in geophysics and vulcanology, and has been a member of ESA’s astronaut corps since 2009.

Born in the southern German town of Künzelsau, Alexander has spent the last four years training for this very special challenge. He will be living and carrying out scientific research in weightlessness, 400 km above Earth.

On the heels of Thomas Reiter and Hans Schlegel, Alexander Gerst is the third German ESA astronaut to visit the orbital outpost.

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