One year, two flights
ESA Director General Jan Wörner looks forward to Matthias’ first mission and says the Space Station is a shining symbol of what can be achieved when nations from around the world work together. “The work we do on the International Space Station helps improve life on Earth as we go forward to the Moon,” he says.
“Two European missions in 2021 will enable us to carry out even more vital science and research in collaboration with our international partners. I’m delighted to see this great collaboration continuing more than 20 years after the first crew was launched.”
Matthias officially joined ESA’s Astronaut Corps in 2015 and is the only ESA astronaut yet to fly to space. ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker says his flight, and the second flight of ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet before him, stands testament to a strong commitment to European space exploration shown by Member States in context of ESA’s Space19+ ministerial conference in 2019.
“With a 30% increase in annual investment we are able to continue European flights to the Space Station at the rate of at least one per year, ensuring Europe is well represented in space. “The recent Memorandum of Understanding with NASA also provides three opportunities for European astronauts to fly to a new lunar outpost known as the Gateway, where they will live and work in orbit around the Moon for the first time. We are entering an exciting new era for space exploration in which Europe will play a key role.”
A declaration of love for space
Alongside his official assignment, Matthias Maurer also revealed the name of his first space mission: Cosmic Kiss. He describes this carefully selected mission name as a 'declaration of love for space'.
“It communicates the special connection the Station provides between Earth’s inhabitants and the cosmos,” explains Matthias. “It also conveys the value of partnership in exploring farther to the Moon and Mars, alongside the need to respect, protect and preserve the nature of our home planet as we seek a sustainable future on Earth.”
“I look forward to building on the curiosity and knowledge of those who went before me, and sharing my own experiences as an ambassador for Europe in orbit,” he adds.
Creating the perfect patch
In developing the Cosmic Kiss mission patch, Matthias took inspiration from the Nebra sky disc ('Himmelsscheibe von Nebra') – the oldest known realistic illustration of the night sky – as well as the Pioneer plaques and Voyager Golden Records that were sent on spaceprobes into the unknown carrying messages from Earth. “These artefacts show a fascination with space that spans the ages. Since the beginning of time, humans have looked skyward for knowledge about the origins of life, the Universe,” he says.
The mission patch features several cosmic elements including Earth, the Moon and the Pleiades star cluster. It also depicts Mars, one of ESA’s three key destinations for exploration over the next 10 years, as a small red dot beckoning in the distance. However, its most prominent feature is a simplified, almost heart-like International Space Station, connected through a human heartbeat that stretches from Earth to the Moon.