Volume: 04, Issue: 22 07/07/2006 
European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter. Image credit: NASA.
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ESA Astronaut Thomas Reiter during training at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX. Image credit: NASA.
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Other Articles in This Issue:
Space Shuttle Discovery
Commander Steve Lindsey
Pilot Mark Kelly
Mission Specialist Mike Fossum
Mission Specialist Lisa Nowak
Mission Specialist Stephanie Wilson
Mission Specialist Piers Sellers

Mission Specialist Thomas Reiter

Thomas Reiter represents the European Space Agency (ESA) and will remain on the space station, working with the station crew under a contract between the ESA and the Russian Federal Space Agency. He was born May 23, 1958, in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. Thomas is married with two sons and enjoys fencing, badminton, cooking, and playing the guitar. Reiter graduated from Goethe-High School in Neu-Isenburg, then from the Armed Forces University in Neubiberg, received a Masters in Aerospace Technology, and graduated from the Empire Test Pilots School in Boscombe Down, England.

In 1992, Reiter was selected to join ESA’s Astronaut Corps. He was selected for the Euro Mir 95 mission and started training at TsPK (Cosmonauts Training Center) in August 1993, preparing for on-board engineer tasks, extravehicular activities, and operations of the Soyuz transportation system. In March 1995 he was assigned on-board engineer for the Euro Mir 95 mission, a record-breaking 179 days on ESA’s Euro Mir 95 mission with two spacewalks. He performed some 40 European scientific experiments and participated in the maintenance of the Mir Space Station.

When asked in a 2006 interview, “For those of us who watch it, it seems that the effects of weightlessness are fun, fun, fun. But what are, what are the not-so-fun effects of weightlessness that we’re concerned about?” Reiter replied,

It’s indeed true that when you get into space the perception of weightlessness is just very, very nice. It’s a very unique feeling not to perceive the weight of your own body, and to float around, and to use the whole space inside the station. You can work on the floor or on the ceiling without any difference. However, the drawback is you don’t use your muscles as you use them here on ground—even if we are sitting here, we are still exercising some of our muscles; if we are walking or standing, even more. This is not the case in weightlessness, so our muscles are getting smaller. Weightlessness has an effect on our bones. Our bones immediately start to lose calcium once we get into orbit, and this is an effect that makes the bones more brittle. Also there are effects on our central nervous system, on our immune system that are caused by the cosmic radiation and also directly by the weightlessness, and this all needs to be very well understood. The scientists here on Earth that are doing investigations in certain areas where they want to fight diseases. They take this specific environment as a kind of test environment to understand better how certain mechanisms that play a role in these diseases work in order to find a cure.

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