Gerst is first German astronaut to head International Space Station

Astronaut Alexander Gerst will become the first German national to head the International Space Station (ISS), he told dpa in an interview Wednesday.

Gerst, who spent six months at the ISS in 2014, announced his new post as ISS Commander during a visit by Chancellor Angela Merkel to the Cologne-headquartered German Aerospace Centre (DLR).

"This is a great opportunity for me and a great mark of confidence from our international partners the United States and Russia in the ESA," Gerst said, referring to the European Space Agency.

Gerst added that his second space mission would take place from May to November 2018, three months of which would be spent commanding the ship.

During his last tour in 2014, the astronaut made waves with his social media coverage of events.

Gerst announced the move after holding talks with Merkel and other officials including the head of the ESA, Johann-Dietrich Woerner.

Merkel was also shown around the ESA's own training facility for astronauts, the so-called European Astronaut Centre. It is based on the Cologne premises of the DLR.

The chancellor also toured the control centre for the so-called Philae lander, which accompanied the Rosetta spacecraft until it landed on a comet more than a decade after departing from earth.

Last update: Wed, 18/05/2016 - 19:13

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