Alexander Gerst is a geophysicist and a German Astronaut at the European Space Agency. He was born on May 3, 1975 in Künzelsau, Germany.
He completed a grammar school education in his hometown before entering alternative civilian service for one year and spending the next year backpacking in a number of countries. Seeing the volcanoes in New Zealand prompted him to study geophysics. Starting his studies at University of Karlsruhe, he received a bachelor's degree in physics and geophysics. He also holds a diploma and a master's degree in geophysics from University of Karlsruhe and Victoria University of Wellington.
His master research was published in Science Magazine. In 2006 he completed a summer scholarship at the German Aerospace Center, DLR. Gerst received the Bernd-Bendel Preis in geophysics awarded by the German Research Foundation in 2007.
As part of his doctoral studies at the university of Hamburg, Gerst specialized in Volcanology studying Mount Erebus in Antarctica. In 2010, Gerst received his doctorate from University of Hamburg. He also completed research in Ethiopia, Indonesia and Guatemala.
Selected as one of six new ESA astronauts from 8,407 applicants, Gerst began astronaut training at the European Astronaut Center, Cologne, Germany. As part of initial training, Gerst and the rest of the 2009 ESA Class, informally known as the "Shenanigans," completed a general training course at EAC, Johnson Space Center and the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. In November 2010, Gerst completed basic training after two months of training in star city to learn the Russian language, get familiar with the Russian segment of ISS and the Soyuz spacecraft and Sokol suit.
In mid-2011, Gerst was assigned his position on ISS Expedition 40/41 and Soyuz TMA-13M. Flight specific training started in 2012. At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Gerst completed extensive Soyuz training, learning about the different systems and their functionality to prepare for his role as Soyuz Flight Engineer.
At the Johnson Space Center, Gerst was familiarized with NASA Mission Operations and began extensive training for USOS operations including scientific activities, systems maintenance, emergency procedures and EVA operations. In Canada, at the Canadian Space Agency, Gerst completed training for operations of Canadarm 2 and in Tsukuba, Japan, he trained for Kibo module operations as well as HTV procedures. In Europe, Gerst trained operations related to the Columbus research module and the Automated Transfer Vehicle as he will be in charge of the rendezvous of the final ATV to visit ISS.
His ESA mission is named "Blue Dot" after the 1990 Voyager 1 photo showing Earth as a Pale Blue Dot taken from a distance of 6 billion Kilometers.
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