ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter reports for duty onboard the ISS

Thanks to the resumption of Space Shuttle flights, the permanent crew of the International Space Station is now back up to three. Joining Russian commander Pavel Vinogradov and NASA flight engineer Jeffrey Williams onboard is ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter.

Less than two days after its Tuesday evening lift-off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at Florida's Cape Canaveral, the Space Shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station this afternoon at 16:52 CEST (14:52 UTC). The Shuttle's seven crew members were welcomed by the Station's permanent crew of two who have been on board since March.

Shortly after boarding, Thomas Reiter recovered his landing seat liner (tailor-made for his body shape) and installed it on the Soyuz TMA-8 spacecraft. Launched back in March, this Russian ferry ship is currently docked to the ISS to serve as an emergency 'lifeboat' for the permanent crew (and also to return Vinogradov and Williams in September).

This seat liner transfer marked the arrival of Thomas Reiter as the third member of the ISS permanent crew and the return to a crew of three for the first time since May 2003.

Thomas Reiter will now spend five to seven months on board as second flight engineer. He is the first non-US, non-Russian astronaut to be given such an assignment. In the future, he will be succeeded by more ESA, Japanese or Canadian astronauts. As flight engineer, he will carry out numerous tasks on board the Station to operate and maintain equipment in its US and Russian segments. He had been in training for these ISS equipment activities since 2001.

His ISS system responsibilities will include the Russian docking mechanism, guidance and control, environmental control and life support systems, power control and communications, crew health & safety and extra-vehicular activities. He is due to become the first ESA astronaut to perform a spacewalk from the Station. In addition, he will operate research facilities onboard to support the ongoing international programme of scientific experimentation.

Among his science activities, he will conduct a series of experiments devised by European scientists for ESA's Astrolab Mission. These will include investigations in the field of human physiology and psychology, microbiology, plasma physics and radiation dosimetry. He will also perform technology demonstrations and conduct industrial and educational experiments for universities and primary/secondary schools.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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