Andreas Mogensen – the Next Nordic in Space

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Andreas_Mogensen Portrait

Selected for Soyuz mission to Space Station in 2015

NordicSpace met Andreas Mogensen for the first time the day he was introduced to the press as one of the new ESA astronauts in 2009. Since then, four years have passed and we wanted to talk with Andreas again about his whereabouts, what he is currently doing and about his preparations for a journey to space, but that was while he waited. Now he has got a flight. He has been selected for a mission in 2015.

Today, Andreas is thirty-six years old and a fully educated astronaut; the basic training is over, but the more specialized training continues. He lives in Cologne, Germany, where the European Astronaut Centre is situated. . The ongoing training is focused on the future mission and he alternates between Cologne, Moscow and Huston, Texas.

However, training is not the only activity he has been undertaking. He has been working on the ESA lunar lander program at ESTEC in the Netherlands. His job involves the design of the guidance, navigation, and control system for precision landing, an ESA proposal aimed at landing a probe near the South Pole of the moon; an area considered highly interesting in terms of a permanent base due to possible ice in the ground.

– This is a highly technical mission, aimed at improving ESA’s competence in terms of participating in a lunar mission. In my doctoral dissertation, I focused on Mars, but the same principles also apply for the moon.

What is the selection process like?

– The selection of astronauts is also as much a political process as it is based on the individual candidates’ technical and scientific competence. Europe only holds a small share in ISS, consequently, there is only one spot available for European astronauts every second year. Within ESA again, the countries that contribute significantly more obviously prefer their own candidates, thus, astronauts from Germany, France and Italy are selected first.

.Pilots are strongly represented in the astronaut unit. What about you?

-Four of the six astronauts were fully trained pilots when selected; only Alexsander Gerst and I were not. However, we have now completed a similar program and are licensed to fly small propeller airplanes. Astronauts will undoubtedly be exposed to many stressful situations, as we need to communicate with various control stations simultaneously as well as monitoring and operating several high-tech instruments. To accomplish just that, we need great skills and practice in coordinating and maneuvering aircrafts, something which we obtained through the pilot program. Thus, pilot training becomes an integral part of the space program as well.

You are also adjunct lecturer at the National Space Institute at Denmark Technical University, (DTU Space), in Copenhagen. What does that imply?

-In my present situation, not much, mainly a lecture once a year. However, we are currently working on developing a new study program for the University, named “Earth and Space Physics and Engineering”. Consequently, I may quite possibly be more involved in the development of space programs at DTU in the future.

Selected for a mission to ISS in 2015, most other activities are put on hold. From now on, training for the mission will be his main focus as Andreas will be the next Nordic in space in less than one year

Andreas’s Way to the Astronaut Corps D’elite.

Andreas was born in Copenhagen, Denmark 1976, and he finished secondary school in 1995, graduating with an International Baccalaureate from CopenhagenInternationalSchool.

He received a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Imperial College London in the United Kingdom in 1999. As part of his studies, he spent six months at the Instituto Superior Tecnico in Lisbon, Portugal.

He began his professional career as an engineer in the oil industry, where he worked as a drilling services engineer from 2000 to 2001, mostly stationed at an oil- drilling rig outside the west coast of Africa for the duration of his employment.

From 2001 to 2003, Andreas returned to Denmark and was employed as a control systems engineer where he designed control systems for wind turbines.

Whilst working towards his doctorate, he also worked as a research assistant at the Center for Space Research and as a teaching assistant in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, in the United States.

Andreas received a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas in 2007. His interest in research includes guidance, navigation and control of spacecraft during entry, descent, landing and mission analysis and design and trajectory optimization.

From 2007 to 2008, Andreas was employed as an altitude & orbit control systems engineer by HE Space Operations. He was subcontracted to EADS Astrium in Friedrichshafen, Germany for the duration of his employment, where he worked on the ESA SWARM mission team.

Prior to his selection as an astronaut in 2009, Mogensen was employed as a research fellow at the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey, in the United Kingdom. His research focused on spacecraft guidance, navigation, control during entry, descent and landing for lunar missions.

Andreas_Mogensen_EVA_training training

EVA_training training for the Danish astronaut. Credit ESA.


Technology and science mission for Andreas

Start of the ten-day mission will take place on 30 September, 2015 with the launch of Soyuz TMA-18 (44S) from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and it will end on 10 October, when Andreas will land with Soyuz TMA-16 (42S).

During his flight, Andreas will test novel ways of interaction between the ground and space crews with a mobile device that allows astronauts to operate it hands-free and with several multi-user communication techniques. The system will also have advanced 3D visualisation and augmented reality–features that will be fully exploited with added wearable computers and cameras to allow the general public to follow activities on the ISS ‘through the eyes of an ESA astronaut’, potentially in real time.

Andreas’s short mission is an excellent opportunity for several science studies, particularly in life science. By adding samples and measurements from a short-duration mission astronaut to material gathered and being collected during long-duration missions, the value of the biomedical statistics is increased. All the instrumentation needed for physiology, biology and material science experiments is already available in the Columbus laboratory and samples can quickly be returned back to Earth for further analysis.

A short-duration mission is also perfect for testing a new generation of health sensors, vital measurement devices and electro-muscle-mobility devices. These have direct benefit for future exploration missions and even sooner on Earth, for instance with operators of heavy machinery or with rehabilitation after sports injuries.

Andreas will be especially equipped too; wearing and assessing a new ‘skin suit’ during normal daily activities. This is tight garment made from elastic material mimicking Earth gravity and thus passively mitigating deconditioning of an astronaut’s body during spaceflight.

Along with the Soyuz arrival, the ISS will host up to nine persons for a while – a record that has not been broken since retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011.