On Thursday, 20 July, German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel and the Prime Minister of Germany's Hesse region, Roland Koch, will address ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter, currently on board the International Space Station (ISS), from ESA's operations centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.
This first live 'Space-to-Earth discussion' between Chancellor Merkel and Thomas Reiter will start at 12:30 CEST and last 20 minutes.
The Chancellor will also tour the control facilities from which 54 European satellite missions have been successfully operated. Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Koch will follow first-hand the preparation for the launch of Europe's latest weather satellite, MetOp. ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and senior ESA staff will also brief the guests on highlight ESA missions, including the Huygens mission to Saturn's moon Titan, Mars Express, Venus Express, Earth observation with Envisat, as well as on Europe's future solar exploration plans.
ISS in-flight call to Hesse-born ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter
The German ESA astronaut is looking forward to discussing ISS science and operations in zero gravity with Mrs. Merkel, who holds a PhD in physics, and with Mr Koch, Prime Minister of the region in which he was born. ESA Director General Dordain explains: "It is a great honour and a pleasure to welcome Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hesse Prime Minister Roland Koch for this in-flight call. Thereby, they demonstrate great support for Thomas Reiter's ISS mission as a key asset to Europe's human spaceflight programme - and for ESA's operations centre in Germany."
Thomas Reiter will begin the second week of his six-month "Astrolab" mission on board the Space Station when he talks to the Chancellor. During his stay in space, he will conduct a programme of European science experiments and carry out ISS maintenance activities. He will also perform an extra-vehicular activity (EVA, or "spacewalk"), currently scheduled for 3 August. This mission will allow Europe to gain experience and know-how in the operation of long-duration spaceflight in preparation for the addition of Europe's Columbus laboratory to the ISS in the second half of 2007.
ESOC - The European Space Operations Centre
ESOC is ESA's centre responsible for the operation of all ESA satellites. Since 1967, it has successfully controlled more than 50 space missions, including Huygens, Venus Express, Mars Express, Rosetta, XMM-Newtown, SMART-1 and Envisat. The control rooms are linked with a worldwide network of ESA ground stations. ESOC operates satellites during their entire mission lifetime, carries out corrective manoeuvres and conducts payload operations. The centre employs about 250 permanent staff and 550 contractors.
via Regional Government of Hesse
The visit of Chancellor Merkel to ESOC is part of a Hesse-wide trip organised by the State government (Hessische Landesregierung / Staatskanzlei). Therefore, media representatives are kindly requested to fill in the attached detailed Hesse registration form.
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