Thomas Reiter

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Thomas Reiter
Thomas Reiter
Country: Germany
Organization: ESA
selected on May 15, 1992
Calls: 2 space flights
Start of the
first space flight:
September 3, 1995
Landing of the
last space flight:
December 22, 2006
Time in space: 350 d 4 h 55 min
EVA inserts: 3
EVA total duration: 14h 15min
retired on September 30, 2007
Space flights

Thomas Arthur Reiter (born May 23, 1958 in Frankfurt am Main ) is a former astronaut , a brigadier general on leave of the Air Force and ESA coordinator “international agencies” as well as advisor to the ESA director general .

School and study

Reiter spent his childhood and youth in Neu-Isenburg near Frankfurt am Main . Both parents were enthusiastic glider pilots , which aroused Reiter's interest in flying at an early stage. After primary school, he attended the Goethe School in Neu-Isenburg and passed the Abitur examination in June 1977. He then signed up as an officer candidate and attended the Air Force officers' school in Fürstenfeldbruck. At the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich in Neubiberg ( Upper Bavaria ) he studied aerospace engineering and completed his studies at the aerospace engineering faculty in December 1982 as a graduate engineer .

Pilot career

In the United States, Reiter was trained as a jet pilot at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas . He was then transferred to Fighter Bomber Wing 43 at the Oldenburg Air Base in Lower Saxony , where he flew the Alpha Jet fighter aircraft and was later a squadron commander . In 1990 he returned to Upper Bavaria and was trained as a test pilot at the Wehrtechnischen Dienststelle 61 in Manching . In the following year, he was retrained to the Panavia Tornado weapon system (including at Fighter Bomber Squadron 32 in Klosterlechfeld ). He then attended the British test pilot school ETPS (Empire Test Pilots School) in Boscombe Down ( County Wiltshire ), where he was awarded the diploma test pilot first class in December 1992.

Astronaut activity

Selection and training

When the European Space Agency (ESA) began looking for applicants for its second group of astronauts in 1989, Reiter and another 22,000 Europeans got in touch. Each ESA member country was asked to propose between three and five candidates. A total of 60 potential applicants came together, six of whom were finally introduced to the public in mid-May 1992 as new members of the European astronaut corps . Two weeks later, at the beginning of June, five of the six candidates - the French Clervoy , the Spaniard Duque , Fuglesang from Sweden, Cheli from Italy and the only selected woman, the Belgian Merchez - came to Cologne to attend the European Astronaut Center (EAC) to begin their training. Reiter only joined in early 1993 because he had to finish his ETPS course in England beforehand.

Flight to the Mir space station

In May 1993, ESA announced that four of its space travelers had been selected to prepare for two space flights to the Mir space station planned in cooperation with Russia . Three months later, Fuglesang, Duque and the two German riders and Merbold traveled to Moscow to the Yuri Gagarin cosmonaut training center and prepared for the missions known as "Euromir". Fuglesang and Reiter were set up for the company "Euromir 95". Two years later, one of the two was supposed to fly to the Mir station and conduct experiments there. The intensive training took place in the “Star City” . Half a year before take-off, Reiter was chosen - Fuglesang was appointed his reserve cosmonaut and acted as liaison officer during the flight .

On September 3, 1995, Reiter took off for the Russian space station on board Soyuz TM-22 . Together with the cosmonauts Gidsenko and Avdejew , he formed the 20th Mir long-term crew. On October 20, Reiter became the first German astronaut to undertake a space exit when he and flight engineer Avdejew left the space station for five hours. In early February 1996 he got off a second time, this time with Commander Gidsenko for three hours. The crew received a visit in November 1995 when the space shuttle mission STS-74 docked. Eight space travelers worked on board for five days until the Atlantis began its return flight. Reiter and his two Russian colleagues lived on board the Mir for a total of 176 days, 20 hours and 50 minutes. It was not until February 29, 1996 that the three boarded the Soyuz spacecraft and landed back on earth after 179 days in space . With the landing, Reiter set another best performance, because Soyuz TM-22 was the longest flight by a non-Russian spaceman.

Already six months after his maiden flight, Reiter took part in intensive training for Soyuz spaceships from October 1996. He learned control, rendezvous and docking with a space station, as well as returning from orbit. At the end of the course on July 24, 1997, he received the certificate entitling him to command a Soyuz-TM spacecraft with three crew members as the re-entry commander.

Between September 1997 and March 1999, Reiter served again in the Air Force in Germany. He was used as commander of the flying group with the Fighter Bomber Wing 38 at the Upjever Air Base in Lower Saxony .

Thomas Reiter on July 5, 2006, his first full day on the Discovery during the STS-116
almost 6 hours of extra-vehicular activity on August 3, 2006 during STS-116 ( ISS-Expedition 13 )

Expedition to the ISS space station

At the beginning of April 1999, Reiter resumed his service as an ESA spaceman and worked on the European ATV transport vehicle . In the summer he returned to Moscow and learned how to use the Russian segments of the International Space Station (ISS) during a nine-month course .

From September 2001 Reiter strengthened the project team for the Columbus research laboratory , the European contribution to the ISS, for two years . In addition, he was preparing for a long-term flight on the space station.

After several Russian-American negotiations, in March 2005 all hurdles for Reiter's several months' flight to the ISS were cleared. These discussions were necessary because the German was supposed to take off on a US space shuttle. When NASA agreed, Reiters flight could only be narrowed down roughly: From July 2005 he was to be the third member of the eleventh ISS regular crew .

STS-121 , Reiter's “feeder” to the International Space Station, was supposed to start two months after the shuttle fleet with STS-114 should have resumed flight operations after a forced break of over two years. This mission was delayed by a year due to the problem with the foam falling off the outer tank during mission STS-114 . On July 4, 2006, Reiter took off for the ISS with the STS-121 after several shifts and two countdown abortions. Two days later he reached the ISS and has been part of ISS Expedition 13 ever since . Together with his American colleague Jeffrey Williams , he left the ISS four weeks after his arrival for six hours and carried out necessary repairs and maintenance work. He lived and worked on board the space station for 166 days until December 19, 2006, and returned to Earth on December 22, 2006 with the STS-116 shuttle mission . With this flight he is the European astronaut with the second longest stay in space. Only Alexander Gerst spent a few more days in space.


No mission function Flight date Flight duration
1 Soyuz TM-22 Flight engineer 1995/1996 179d 01h 41m
2 STS-121 / STS-116 Flight engineer 2006 171d 03h 54m

Career as a manager

Thomas Reiter was on leave of absence from the German Armed Forces but was promoted to Brigadier General on March 20, 2009 , in order to be able to serve on the board of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) from October 1, 2007 to March 2011 . There he was responsible for space research and development.

From April 2011 to December 2015 he was head of the ESA Directorate for Manned Spaceflight and Mission Operations, based in the ESA European Satellite Control Center ( ESOC ) in Darmstadt. He was responsible for Europe's contribution to the International Space Station, ESA's activities in the field of manned spaceflight, the operation of manned and unmanned spacecraft and the ground segment. Thomas Reiter, based in Darmstadt, is now ESA coordinator for international agencies and adviser to ESA Director General Jan Wörner .


On December 17, 2009, Thomas Reiter received an honorary doctorate from the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich. Also in 1996 he was awarded the First Class Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, in 2007 the Lower Saxony State Medal and the Great Federal Cross of Merit . In 2008 he received the Bavarian Europe Medal and the asteroid (10973) Thomasreiter was named after him. In 2010 he was honored with the Lucius D. Clay Medal . On June 28, 2010, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Faculty of Aerospace Technology at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich. For 2016 he was awarded the Aachen Engineering Prize.

Reiter is an honorary citizen of the city of Neu-Isenburg. In 2018 a street in a new building area in New Isenburg was named after him.


Reiter was a commentator on the Canadian television series Aerospace - Das Luft- und Raumfahrtmagazin , which was received on various channels. The magazine, which this century was produced between the late 1990s and early, was presented in the BR telecast Space Night and the Discovery Channel aired. Reiter also moderated the documentary series Expedition Earth in five episodes, a co-production by the BBC and ZDF from 2008, broadcast in the Terra X series .

Thomas Reiter is married and lives with his wife in Rastede - Wahnbek ( Ammerland district ) near Oldenburg . The couple have two sons. Reiter also has an amateur radio license . His own callsign is DF4TR. During his stay in Mir he used the callsign R0MIR and on the ISS the station callsign NA1SS.

In addition, Reiter holds the Heinrich Hertz guest professorship in 2008 at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (formerly University of Karlsruhe ), in which he reported on his experiences in space in several lectures and also led a seminar on the subject.

See also

Web links

Commons : Thomas Reiter  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Spacewalker becomes General. Federal Ministry of Defense, March 20, 2009, archived from the original on January 14, 2014 ; accessed on January 13, 2014 .
  2. ^ About the person - Colonel Thomas Arthur Reiter., August 14, 2006, archived from the original on July 10, 2009 ; Retrieved June 4, 2009 .
  3. Alexander Gerst longer in space than colleague Reiter: record. In: The world. December 7, 2018, accessed December 11, 2018 .
  4. Honorary Citizen. In: Directory of people and courses. Spring trimester 2001. University of the Federal Armed Forces Munich, Neubiberg 2001, p. 14.
  5. Reiter's direct call from space shows a bond with the university. merkur-online, June 29, 2010, accessed on June 30, 2010 : "The astronaut Thomas Reiter has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the Faculty of Aerospace Technology at the Bundeswehr University in Neubiberg."
  6. Sebastian Dreher: Astronaut Thomas Reiter receives Aachen engineering award. Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, press release from June 20, 2016 from Informationsdienst Wissenschaft (, accessed on June 20, 2016.
  7. ^ Ceremonial unveiling of the street signs in Birkengewann. In: May 24, 2018. Retrieved August 29, 2019 .
  8. Prominent radio amateurs., accessed on April 25, 2018 .