In this episode of our ESA Explores Time and Space series we chat with the first ESA astronaut to fly to space, physicist Ulf Merbold.

Ulf flew on the 9th flight of NASA's Space Shuttle programme and the first flight of European-built Spacelab in 1983. As the first west German to fly to space, he talks us through his experiences – including his relationship with the late Sigmund Jähn, what life was like as first non-US citizen on a NASA spacecraft and how the astronauts and cosmonauts he worked with became like family through the years. 

Additional content:

Find out more about Ulf here:

Watch the NASA/ESA Spacelab documentary here:

NASA Public Affairs Officer Lori Meggs talks about the 30th anniversary of the Spacelab programme with former Marshall Space Flight Center Deputy Director Teresa Vanhooser here: 


One of the first engineers to work on Spacelab Alan Thirkettle talks hosts Ally and Stephen through the unexpected challenges and memorable moments of building a science laboratory for space.

This unique European-built research facility flew inside NASA's Space Shuttle. It enabled the first flight of a non-American astronaut on a NASA spacecraft in 1983. It also paved the way for ESA's current laboratory on the International Space Station and the future of research in space. 

Related watching:

Spacelab - a new direction

In episode one of ESA Explores' Time and Space series, we explore the early days of Soviet spaceflight in conversation with Romania's first cosmonaut Dorin Prunariu. Dorin was one of 11 Europeans to fly under Russia's Interkosmos programme. In 1978, this programme saw the first European - Czech cosmonaut Vladimir Remek - become the first non-Russian or American to fly to space. 

Interview with Dorin starts at 05:17. 

ESA astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Matthias Maurer take the time to chat while training for upcoming missions to the International Space Station missions at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, USA. 

This audio was originally a four-part video series filmed in June 2020. You can watch the full series on ESA's YouTube channel. 

After a brief shutdown of science instruments and a period in ‘safe standby’, ESA’s planetary missions are getting back to what they do best – gathering science data from around the Solar System.


Paolo Ferri, Head of Mission Operations at ESA’s mission control centre in Germany, and Markus Kissler-Patig, Head of Science and Operations at the Agency’s ESAC Astronomy Centre in Spain discuss the extraordinary and challenging times facing teams on the ground, the return to science for four key missions, and what it's like to make key decisions about the safety of their workforce and Europe’s fleet of space explorers in light of a global pandemic.


This podcast episode was originally released in April 2020. 

Just a short time after returning from 201 days in orbit on the International Space Station, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano talks to Ally Koehler about his Beyond mission and life back on Earth. 

Dr Aidan Cowley is a science advisor at ESA working with students and researchers on ideas that could shape the way we go forward to the Moon. In this episode, he discusses an initiative called Spaceship EAC, the future of space exploration and an alternative use for your kitchen microwave as we look beyond low Earth orbit. 

As Luca's time in space draws to a close, hosts Ally Koehler and Stephen Ennis chat to ESA flight surgeon Maybritt Kuypers about the medical challenges of returning an astronaut to Europe from the International Space Station. 

The festive season is in full force. Find out how astronauts celebrate special occasions on the Space Station with ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, BME/Eurocom coordinator for ESA Andrea Boyd and your hosts Ally Koehler and Stephen Ennis. 

ESA explores Beyond: L' addestramento degli astronauti.

Episodio in italiano: Massimiliano Signori e Flavie Rometsch ci parlano dell' addestramento degli astronauti, ed in particolare cosa imparano al Centro Astronauti Europeo (EAC) a Colonia, ed alcuni aneddotti divertenti.

Episode in Italian: Massimiliano Signori and Flavie Rometsch tell us about the training of astronauts, and in particular what they learn at ESA's Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany, along with some funny anecdotes.

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