Visiting the European Astronaut Centre

︎ 9 August 2023

Two of our Space Health Research team recently had the exciting opportunity to visit the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany. Established in 1990, the EAC is home to the European Space Agency’s astronaut corps. Today, it is used to prepare astronauts for flight to the International Space Station (ISS) and beyond. The centre specialises in astronaut selection, training and support.

The two lucky visitors were Dr Aaron Parkhurst and Dr David “Jeeva” Jeevendrampillai. Aaron is Director of Research at Space Health Research and Jeeva is Director of Design and Innovation. Alongside Space Health Research, both work in the Department of Anthropology at UCL. Both Aaron and Jeeva are also Core Project Members of whose purpose is to “critically re-examine our terrestrially based theories.” This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC). We are extremely proud to have them as part of our team. 

On their tour, Jeeva and Aaron began by visiting the astronaut training facilities for the Columbus laboratory on the ISS (International Space Station). The Columbus laboratory was the first permanent European research facility in space. The facility in space offers a chance for European scientists to conduct research in a fully weightless environment -- which cannot be replicated on Earth. 

EAC 1: The outside of the Columbus training module at the EAC. 

EAC 2: The biolab training module where astronauts prepare for conducting life science research in space.

Next, they observed the medical research facilities (also owned by the European Space Agency) in the DLR German AeroSpace Centre. The purpose of these facilities is to understand the human body in extreme conditions, including off-world.

EAC 3: Dr Aaron Parkhurst at the German AeroSpace Centre

In this photo, you can see Aaron with the Next Generation Short-Arm Human Centrifuge. The centrifuge is an extraordinary research facility investigating, among other things, the effects of artificial gravity and hyper gravity on human movement, cognition, sensory motor function, and cardiovascular health. This work is critical in developing countermeasures to health problems off world. In turn this will improve muscle, bone and cardiovascular health on Earth. Excellent stuff.

Along the way, they had the honour of meeting with astronauts and members of the EAC team to understand their work and experiences in space. As medical and social science researchers, Aaron and Jeeva worked with members of ESA and EAC on a wide range of off-world living projects.

We are excited about future collaborations between ESA, Space Health Research, UCL, and beyond...

EAC 4: Dr Aaron Parkhurst at the European Space Agency