Alexander Gerst

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Alexander Gerst
Born (1976-05-03) 3 May 1976 (age 48)
Künzelsau, Baden-Württemberg, West Germany
Space career
ESA astronaut
Time in space
362 days 1 hour 50 mins
Selection2009 ESA Group
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
6 hours 13 minutes
MissionsSoyuz TMA-13M (Expedition 40/41) Soyuz MS-09 (Expedition 56/57)
Mission insignia

Alexander Gerst (born 3 May 1976 in Künzelsau, Baden-Württemberg) is a German European Space Agency astronaut and geophysicist, who was selected in 2009 to take part in space training. He was part of the International Space Station Expedition 40 and 41 from May to November 2014. Gerst returned to space on 6 June 2018, as part of Expedition 56/57. He was the Commander of the International Space Station. He returned to Earth on 20 December 2018.[1] After the end of his second mission and before being surpassed by Luca Parmitano in 2020, he held the record for most time in space of any active ESA astronaut (362 days), succeeding Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, and German ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter, who formally held the record for the longest time in space for any active or retired ESA astronaut.

Education and research[edit]

Gerst graduated from the Technical High School in Öhringen, Germany, in 1995. While in high school, he volunteered as a scout leader, firefighter, and water rescue lifeguard.[2]

Gerst studied at the University of Karlsruhe (now Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), Germany, where he received a degree in geophysics with distinction.[2]

From 1998 to 2003 Gerst participated in several international scientific collaborations and field experiments, including some in remote locations such as Antarctica.[2]

From 2001 to 2003, Gerst studied for a master's degree in earth sciences at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.[3] While researching his master's thesis, he developed volcano monitoring techniques that might improve forecasts of volcanic eruptions. His results were published in Science Magazine.[4]

Gerst worked as a researcher at the Institute of Geophysics at the University of Hamburg between 2004 and 2009, and received his doctorate in natural sciences from the University of Hamburg in 2010, with a dissertation on geophysics and volcanic eruption dynamics at Mount Erebus volcano in Antarctica.

In 2007 Gerst received the Bernd Rendel award for outstanding research from the German Research Foundation (DFG).[5] He has published several papers, including one in Nature.[6]

In ESA[edit]

Gerst was selected as an astronaut in 2009 by the European Space Agency.[7]

In September 2019, he participated[8][9] in the ESA CAVES[10] mission of the European Space Agency alongside Janette Epps, Takuya Onishi, Joshua Kutryk, Joe Acaba and Nikolay Chub.

In 2022, he participated[11] in the ESA PANGAEA[12][13][14][15] training course, in its sessions in Bletterbach (ITA), Nordlingen-Ries (GER) and Lanzarote (SPA) together with NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson and in the Lofoten session together with ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.

Expedition 40/41[edit]

He visited space as part of the Expedition 40/41 International Space Station crew from May to November 2014.[16][17] On 7 October 2014, Gerst performed his first extravehicular activity (EVA) with Reid Wiseman. The astronauts moved a failed cooling pump from temporary to long-term storage on the station's truss. They also installed a new relay system that will provide backup power options to the mobile transporter, which moves the large robotic arm around the out outside of the space station. The duration of the EVA was 6 hours and 13 minutes.[18]

Gerst pictured during his first EVA

On 10 November 2014, he landed on Earth in the same Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft that flew him to the International Space Station on 28 May along with Russian commander Maxim Suraev and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman.

Gerst's six-month mission to the ISS was named "Blue Dot".[19] The mission's name is reminiscent of Carl Sagan's description of Earth as a Pale Blue Dot as seen on a photograph taken by NASA's Voyager mission.

The mission experiments included experiments in physical science, biology, human physiology, radiation research, and technology demonstrations. Educational outreach included educational videos as part of the "flying classroom" and set of experiments performed in microgravity.[20][21]

Expedition 56/57[edit]

Gerst launched his second tour to the ISS on Soyuz MS-09 on 6 June 2018, as part of Expedition 56/57. He is the commander of the ISS for Expedition 57.[22][23] He will bring a robot assistant called "CIMON".[24] He was the second European Space Agency astronaut to command the station, after Frank de Winne commanded Expedition 21, and also the youngest astronaut to command the station, at age 42 as of October 2018. In May 2017, his mission name and logo were announced, called "Horizons".[18]

On 20 July 2018, while on the ISS, Gerst took part in a live concert by the German electronic music group Kraftwerk in the German city of Stuttgart. He addressed the audience and played a synthesizer during the performance of the song "Spacelab".[25]

On 20 December 2018 he and his crewmates Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Sergey Prokopyev returned to Earth and landed in Kazakhstan after 197 days in space, combined with the 165 days in space on his last mission, Gerst has 362 days in space, more than any other ESA astronaut in history.[26] In 2020 Luca Parmitano surpassed this record with 367 days in space.

Personal life[edit]

Gerst is single, and in his spare time he enjoys mountaineering, diving, climbing and skydiving.[27]

Gerst is a licensed radio amateur (KF5ONO) and has participated in several ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) educational contacts.[28]

In popular culture[edit]

Some of Gerst's background and appearance is incorporated into the character of Alex Vogel, a German astronaut and part of the crew of the Hermes vessel in the 2015 science-fiction film The Martian.[29]


  1. ^ "An astronaut returns to Earth". Archived from the original on 14 December 2018. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Alexander Gerst". European Space Agency. Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  3. ^ Gerst, Alexander (2003). Temporal Changes in Seismic Anisotropy as a New Eruption Forecasting Tool (Masters thesis). Open Access Repository Victoria University of Wellington, Victoria University of Wellington. doi:10.26686/wgtn.16910776. Archived from the original on 25 May 2023. Retrieved 27 March 2023.
  4. ^ Gerst, Alexander; Savage, Martha K. (26 November 2004). "Seismic Anisotropy Beneath Ruapehu Volcano: A Possible Eruption Forecasting Tool". Science. 306 (5701): 1543–1547. Bibcode:2004Sci...306.1543G. doi:10.1126/science.1103445. PMID 15567860. S2CID 13393229.
  5. ^ "List of all prize recipients of the Bernd Rendel Prize" (PDF). DFG. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  6. ^ Johnson, Jeffrey B.; Lees, Jonathan M.; Gerst, Alexander; Sahagian, Dork; Varley, Nick (20 November 2008). "Long-period earthquakes and co-eruptive dome inflation seen with particle image velocimetry". Nature. 456 (7220): 377–381. Bibcode:2008Natur.456..377J. doi:10.1038/nature07429. PMID 19020619. S2CID 4428810.
  7. ^ "ESA prepares for the next generation of human spaceflight and exploration by recruiting a new class of European astronauts". European Space Agency. 20 May 2009. Archived from the original on 23 May 2009. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  8. ^ "Meet the cavenauts – Alexander Gerst – Caves & pangaea blog". Archived from the original on 26 May 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  9. ^ "Cave life for space – Caves & pangaea blog". Archived from the original on 26 May 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  10. ^ Sauro, Francesco; De Waele, Jo; Payler, Samuel J.; Vattano, Marco; Sauro, Francesco Maria; Turchi, Leonardo; Bessone, Loredana (1 July 2021). "Speleology as an analogue to space exploration: The ESA CAVES training programme". Acta Astronautica. 184: 150–166. Bibcode:2021AcAau.184..150S. doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2021.04.003. hdl:11585/819077. ISSN 0094-5765. S2CID 234819922. Archived from the original on 3 October 2023. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  11. ^ "Alex on the rocks". Archived from the original on 30 January 2023. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  12. ^ Sauro, Francesco; Payler, Samuel J.; Massironi, Matteo; Pozzobon, Riccardo; Hiesinger, Harald; Mangold, Nicolas; Cockell, Charles S.; Frias, Jesus Martínez; Kullerud, Kåre; Turchi, Leonardo; Drozdovskiy, Igor; Bessone, Loredana (1 March 2023). "Training astronauts for scientific exploration on planetary surfaces: The ESA PANGAEA programme". Acta Astronautica. 204: 222–238. Bibcode:2023AcAau.204..222S. doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2022.12.034. ISSN 0094-5765. S2CID 255178725.
  13. ^ "What is Pangaea?". Archived from the original on 1 February 2023. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  14. ^ "Training astronauts to be scientists on the Moon". Archived from the original on 30 January 2023. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  15. ^ "Gearing up for the Moon with Pangaea". Archived from the original on 30 January 2023. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  16. ^ Clark, Stephen. "Mission Status Center". Spaceflight Now. Archived from the original on 11 July 2022. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  17. ^ "Expedition 41 Lands Safely in Kazakhstan". NASA. 9 November 2014. Archived from the original on 24 June 2022. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  18. ^ a b "Alexander Gerst". ESA. 9 February 2018. Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Introducing Blue Dot". ESA. 14 November 2014. Archived from the original on 14 June 2018. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  20. ^ "Pale Blue Dot:Lessons from space". ESA. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  21. ^ "Pale Blue Dot:Flying classroom". ESA. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  22. ^ "Alexander Gerst wird erster deutscher Kommandant im All". (in German). faz. 18 May 2016. Archived from the original on 18 May 2016. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  23. ^ Clark, Stephen. "First German commander among astronauts named for station flights". Spaceflight Now. Archived from the original on 19 May 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  24. ^ "IBM is launching a floating, talking robotic head into space that will work with astronauts". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 28 February 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  25. ^ "Good evening, Kraftwerk!". Archived from the original on 22 July 2020. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  26. ^ "Soyuz Crew Returns to Earth After a Memorable 6 Months in Space". 20 December 2018. Archived from the original on 20 December 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  27. ^ "International Space Travellers". Archived from the original on 25 September 2018. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  28. ^ "International Space Station Briefly "Ham-less" After Crew Members Return to Earth". American Radio Relay League. Archived from the original on 18 April 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  29. ^ Schepers, Andreas (5 August 2015). "The Martian (Film) – augenzwinkernde Hommage an ESA-Astronaut Alexander Gerst" [The Martian (film) – winking tribute to ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst] (blog). (in German). Archived from the original on 22 August 2017. Retrieved 8 July 2017.

External links[edit]

Preceded by ISS Expedition Commander
3 October 2018 – 20 December 2018
Succeeded by