“Human Spaceflight – Where Are We Going?” with Claude Nicollier (Space Innovation, EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland)

Human spaceflight has been conducted for more than six decades with a multiplicity of objectives. In the early days the goal was essentially political, with the idea to demonstrate superiority in technical and operational capabilities. With the Apollo program and the early space stations operated by the US (Skylab) and the Soviet Union, there was a definite shift towards the use of human space missions for the conduct of scientific research. This shift was clearly continued with the Space Shuttle, and consolidated with the International Space Station. Today we see new components in human spaceflight, with the involvement of private companies, essentially in the US, space tourism (suborbital and orbital), and plans for inhabited space missions to the Moon in a few years, and later to Mars.

Whatever the main objective of any human space mission is, there is always a strong adrenalin flow during the ascent to space end the reentry phases, and also during critical action on orbit, like rendezvous and docking, or spacewalks. Human spaceflight is always an adventure, and a definite source of inspiration!

This talk will not be scientific or technical, but will present the different components, the current status, and future plans of human space missions. The personal experience of the speaker in space, and in particular work performed on the Hubble Space Telescope in Low Earth Orbit, will also be presented. 

Claude Nicollier was born in Vevey, Switzerland, in 1944. He became an astrophysicist after studies in physics in Lausanne and astrophysics in Geneva. He also trained as a Swiss Air Force pilot and as an airline pilot. He is a graduate of the Empire Test Pilot’s School, Boscombe Down, United Kingdom, class of 1988.

He was selected in 1978 in the first group of astronauts of the European Space Agency (ESA), then was detached to the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, for full training as Mission Specialist on the US Space Shuttle, following an agreement between ESA and NASA. He served as a crewmember on four Shuttle missions between 1992 and 1999, including two on-orbit interventions on the Hubble Space Telescope. He spent a total of more than 1000 hours in space during these four missions.

He is currently a member of “Space Innovation”, Switzerland, and honorary Professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology EPFL.

He is also a member of the Federal Commission for Space Affairs, which advises the Federal Council on matters related to the space policy of the Swiss Confederation.  Occasionally, he serves as scientific and technical advisor for Masters or Doctoral students working on space related subjects at EPFL.

Webinar was recorded on November 4, 2021