ESA's ATV Astronaut Trainees Pass With Flying Colors
January 14, 2014

ESA’s ATV Astronaut Trainees Pass With Flying Colors

Gerard LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

The ESA has announced that the fifth and last Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) will be leaving for the International Space Station (ISS) this summer. ATV Georges Lemaitre will be launched from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It will be bringing supplies, fuel and oxygen for the astronauts aboard the orbiting space lab.

Alexander Gerst is an ESA astronaut who will be departing in May to join the other members of the ISS. Last month, Gerst and fellow cosmonaut Sasha Skvortsov were the last graduates in ATV training in an eight-year program at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.

“Alexander and Sasha passed with flying colours and for the trainers it was a moment of mixed emotions, a feeling of a job well done on this historic moment, combined with sadness that ATV training has come to end,” said ATV instructor Lionel Ferra.

During the schooling, over 83 astronauts were trained through simulations in docking procedures, spacecraft connections, entering the vehicle, testing the atmosphere, unloading cargo, loading trash and undocking procedures.

Typically over 1,000 items are brought to the ISS by an ATV and will be unloaded by the crew, cataloged and stored. When the unloading is complete, it will be reloaded with waste and unneeded equipment that has accumulated on the station, secured and then  undocked from the station.

Head of ESA’s Astronaut Training Division, Hans Bolender, says, “When the first ATV, Jules Verne, was launched in 2008, instructors at the European Astronaut Centre had to develop a whole new training programme from scratch. Europe had never launched a spacecraft for human spaceflight but working hand in hand with the spacecraft designers, industry and partners in Russia, the team developed a complete training programme adapted to the needs of busy astronauts to safely conduct these complex missions.”

“By coincidence, when Alexander and Sasha completed their docking training, another ESA astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, was completing her ATV undocking training with another Alexander: cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev,” said Rüdiger Seine, who is responsible for the astronaut mission training. “They will be on the Space Station when ATV-5 leaves at the end of this year.”

Another ATV instructor, Michael Markus says, “We have seen many amazing astronauts pass by our classroom and it is always satisfying to see a student perform well in real life. Naturally we will be watching the Alexanders, Sasha and Samantha from Earth for the last ATV operations as well.”

The astronauts aboard the Space Station will take refresher courses to review procedures. Some of these courses are available to try on your own web browser or tablet computer. ESA wants to know, "[Do you] have what it takes to dock ATV?"