Image: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst in the ISS European Columbus laboratory

January 3, 2018, European Space Agency
Credit: ESA/NASA

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst floats inside the International Space Station's European Columbus laboratory. The image was taken during his first flight in 2014.

The lights in the laboratory are dimmed to a pinkish glow during the crew's off-duty time. Columbus houses NASA's Veggie greenhouse, where researchers are growing lettuce in weightlessness. Previous experiments showed that red light is best for growing plants in space.

Veggie is already a favourite experiment for astronauts because it offers fresh food at the end of a harvest. Learning how to grow food in is essential for longer trips further from Earth.

Nearly a decade ago, the Columbus laboratory set sail to become Europe's largest single contribution to the International Space Station. Shortly after, the first Automated Transfer Vehicle – the most complex spacecraft ever built in Europe – arrived at the orbital outpost. 

There is a lot to celebrate in 2018: the 10th anniversary of the Columbus laboratory and the Automated Transfer Vehicle series, plus Alexander's second mission to the Space Station.

He will be launched in June on Soyuz MS-09 together with NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev. He will fulfil the role of commander during the second part of his six-month.

This is the second time a European astronaut will be commander of the Station – the first was Frank De Winne in 2009.

Explore further: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst to return to ISS for Horizons mission in 2018

Related Stories

Image: Arrival at the International Space Station

June 4, 2014

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted this image from the International Space Station four days after his arrival at the outpost on a Soyuz spacecraft together with NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and Roscosmos commander Maxim ...

Video: Vita docking

July 31, 2017

Replay of the docking of the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft to the International Space Station with ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik and Roscosmos commander Sergey Ryazansky. The astronauts were launched ...

Recommended for you

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.