Ernst Messerschmid

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Ernst Messerschmid
Ernst Messerschmid
Country: Germany
Organization: DFVLR
selected on December 19, 1982
Calls: 1 space flight
Begin: October 30, 1985
Landing: November 6, 1985
Time in space: 7d 0h 44min
retired on November 1986
Space flights

Ernst Willi Messerschmid (born May 21, 1945 in Reutlingen , Baden-Württemberg ) is a German physicist and astronaut .


Ernst Messerschmid grew up in Reutlingen near Stuttgart and after finishing school completed an apprenticeship as a plumber in his parents' company and attended the Ferdinand von Steinbeis School in Reutlingen. As a gas and water plumber journeyman, he made up his Abitur on the second educational path and passed the higher education entrance qualification at the specialized technical high school in Stuttgart at the age of 20 as the best in class.

Studies and beginnings of the scientific career

After completing his military service, Messerschmid began studying physics in 1967 as a scholarship holder of the German National Academic Foundation . He first attended the Eberhard-Karls-Universität in Tübingen and in 1970 went to the European nuclear research center CERN in Geneva, Switzerland as a visiting scientist for a year . Then he continued his studies at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Bonn ( North Rhine-Westphalia ) and obtained his diploma in 1972.

Messerschmid then returned to CERN and did research in Geneva for three years. In 1975 he went to the USA as a research assistant at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island ( New York ), where he was involved in the development of particle accelerators .

The following year he took a position in his home in Baden-Württemberg: He worked as a research assistant at the Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg im Breisgau and was writing his doctoral thesis ( investigations of the longitudinal instability of relativistic proton beams in circular accelerators ). In 1976 he received his doctorate as Dr. rer. nat. and went to Hamburg for a year . At the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) he worked on the beam optics of the PETRA storage ring .

Astronaut activity

In 1977, what was then the DFVLR (German Research and Research Institute for Aerospace) searched all the major German daily newspapers for experimenters for the European space laboratory Spacelab . Similar advertisements were published by the other national organizations of the ESA member states. The European Space Agency (ESA) was looking for applicants to set up its first astronaut group. The aspirants were given the prospect of being able to conduct research in the space laboratory built by ESA on board the US space shuttle . A total of around 2,000 scientists submitted their documents - 700 of them from Germany alone.

Messerschmid, who was working at DESY at the time, found the prospect of being able to work in space interesting. He submitted his documents, went through the selection process and was one of the five national finalists. However, it was Ulf Merbold who made the running for the Federal Republic and was reported to the ESA headquarters.

In 1978 Messerschmid moved to DFVLR, the forerunner of today's DLR , and came to the Institute for Telecommunications in Oberpfaffenhofen ( Bavaria ). He worked on satellite-based rescue services and future navigation systems. Five years later, the DFVLR asked the finalists, who had failed in 1977, whether they were still interested in participating in a space flight.

The Federal Republic of Germany had agreed with the USA to carry out its own Spacelab mission on board the space shuttle in the mid-1980s. The experiments, which mainly came from Germany, were to be supervised by German space travelers. For this it was necessary to select further candidates. In December 1982 Messerschmid and his Berlin colleague Reinhard Furrer were introduced to the public as scientific astronauts .

After several years of intensive preparation, Messerschmid and Furrer flew into near-earth space on board the US space shuttle Challenger . They supervised the 75 test arrangements during mission D1 in autumn 1985. It was the first Spacelab flight financed by Germany (hence the name D1). The science company ended successfully after seven days.


Since Messerschmid left his service in the German astronaut squad in 1986, he has held a permanent teaching position - in various positions - at the University of Stuttgart . In November of that year he accepted an appointment as full professor and became director of the Institute for Space Systems (IRS). In addition, for ten years from 1989, he was the spokesman for the Collaborative Research Center “High Temperature Problems in Returnable Space Transportation Systems” (SFB 259).

In 1990 Messerschmid was elected Dean of the Faculty of Aerospace Technology for two years , then was Deputy Head of this Faculty before he worked as Vice-Rector for Research and Technology at the university for two years from October 1996 . From 1998 until his retirement in 2013 he returned to his teaching position at the IRS - with the exception of four years, which he took on leave from his full professorship : from 2000 to 2004 he was head of the European Astronaut Center (EAC) in Cologne. There he was responsible for training the astronauts.

In addition to his university research activities, Messerschmid is engaged in a variety of ways: from 1987 to 1992 he was a member of the advisory committee for Hermes and advised the European space agency on space shuttle safety issues. For four months from October 1991 he was chairman of the selection committee for European astronauts at EAC for ESA and from October 1992 to June 1993 he chaired the selection committee for space programs at DLR. He also trained the German astronauts for D-2 ( Schlegel / Walter / Brümmer / Thiele ) and MIR '92 ( Flade / Ewald ).

Since 1990 Messerschmid has lectured at the National Aerospace University , SUPAERO, in Toulouse , France, and teaches at the International Space University in Strasbourg . From 1994 he headed the Space Segment Advisory Group of the telecommunications department for ESA for two years and was on the usage committee for the International Space Station (ISS) until 2000 . Between 1995 and 1997 he headed the advisory group for the use of the ISS at the German Space Agency . In addition, from 1996 to 2004 he was an expert reviewer for aerospace technology at the German Research Foundation .

His professorship in the field of astronautics and space stations ended in October 2015. Reinhold Ewald will be his successor .


Messerschmid has published around 150 scientific papers, is co-author of ten books and holds ten German and European patents. Among other things, he has received the Federal Cross of Merit, First Class , the Medal of Merit of the State of Baden-Württemberg and the Golden Hermann Oberth Medal . In 2010 he was awarded the Hans Peter Stihl Prize . He has been a member of the Leopoldina Scholars' Academy since 2004 . In 2009 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Technical University of Dresden . He is also a member of the German Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech) .

Messerschmid has been married since 1977.

Fonts (selection)

  • Ernst Messerschmid, Stefanos Fasoulas: Space systems. An introduction with exercises and solutions. Springer, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-540-21037-7 .
  • Ernst Messerschmid, Kian Yazdi, Johannes Uhl: Space Station Design Workshop 2002. Interdisciplinary Student Education. ESA Publication SP-1267, European Space Agency, Paris February 2003.
  • Ernst Messerschmid, Reinhold Bertrand: Space Stations. Systems and Utilization. Springer, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-540-65464-X .
  • Ernst Messerschmid, Reinhold Bertrand, Frank Pohlemann: Space stations. Systems and usage. Springer, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-540-60992-X .
  • Ernst Messerschmid, Reinhold Bertrand: MELISSA. A LabVIEW-based environment for simulating life support systems. In: Jamal Rahman, Hans Jaschinski (Hrsg.): Virtual instruments in practice. Accompanying volume to the congress VIP 97. Hüthig, Heidelberg 1997, ISBN 3-7785-2667-7 .
  • Ernst Messerschmid, Berndt Feuerbacher: From space to everyday life. Space - laboratory and marketplace. Motorbuch, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-613-02785-5 .

See also

Web links

Commons : Ernst Messerschmid  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes: Annual report 2017 , p. 86.
  2. Elisa Werler: Reinhold Ewald takes over the professorship for astronautics and space stations., September 29, 2015, archived from the original on March 4, 2016 ; Retrieved November 20, 2015 .
  3. Member entry by Prof. Dr. Ernst Messerschmid (with picture) at the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina , accessed on July 19, 2016.
  4. Honorary doctoral students of the TH / TU Dresden. Technical University of Dresden, accessed on February 4, 2015 .