Alexander Gerst (Expedition 56/57). Born 3 May 1976 in Künzelsau, Baden-Württemberg, Dr. Alexander Gerst 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 the space station on June 6, 2018, as part of Expedition 56. Gerst will transfer over the Expedition 57, which is expected to begin in October 2018 upon the departure of Soyuz MS-08, as commander. This is the second time a European astronaut takes up this leading position on the Space Station. A commander’s main responsibilities are to maintain morale among the crew, look after safety and operations, and follow the instructions dictated by the flight director on the ground.
During his first stay in orbit, he carried out over 50 science experiments. Highlights of the “Blue Dot” mission included a spacewalk and the docking of Europe’s last Automated Transfer Vehicle, a resupply vehicle for the International Space Station.
“Horizons” is the name of his second mission, which also comes packed with science. In the mission, he shared the ride in the Soyuz capsule with Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev and US astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor.