Paris, 31 August 1998
The four - Leopold Eyharts (France), Hans Schlegel (Germany) and Paolo Nespoli and Roberto Vittori (Italy) - will take part in courses ranging from an indepth study of the Shuttle and Space Station's systems to simulations and to survival training in remote areas.
The four joined the European Space Agency (ESA) over this past summer in the first phase of the creation of a single European astronaut corps. Existing astronaut programmes in individual European countries are being merged into a single one under ESA management in order to allow Europe to respond in a cost-effective manner to the mission opportunities that will become available to ESA as the European partner in the International Space Station.
Leopold Eyharts is the European astronaut who has most recently spent time in space. He represented the French national space agency CNES on the French-Russian Pegase mission aboard the Russian space station Mir for three weeks in February 1998.
Hans Schlegel flew aboard the Space Shuttle's STS-55/D-2 mission in April-May 1993 as an astronaut of the German aerospace centre DLR and since then has trained extensively in Star City, Russia.
Paolo Nespoli and Roberto Vittori are both astronaut candidates selected in July by the Italian space agency, ASI, in cooperation with ESA. Paolo Nespoli was previously an astronaut training engineer with ESA and prepared training for the International Space Station, while Roberto Vittori is a major in the Italian Air Force and is specialised as a test pilot.
The International Space Station is a large, multi-purpose research institute that will be assembled in space over the next five years. Its first element is scheduled to be launched into orbit before the end of this year. The first astronauts will move into the Station half a year after its construction begins. European astronauts will begin living and working on the Station shortly thereafter.
For further information, see the following web pages:
ESA's Manned Spaceflight programme
Biographies of ESA astronauts