MSS18 Internship stories: Kwasi Nkansah at ESA’s European Astronaut Center


ISU MSS18 Canadian student Kwasi Nkansah tells us about his experience at the European Space Agency’s European Astronaut Center (EAC) based in Cologne, Germany. The EAC team is made up of more than 100 professionals, complemented by staff from DLR, CNES and from industry.

“Large and small figures moving in the foyer, all eyes are glued to two screens, on the left screen are three astronauts in a Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, on the right screen, a live video of the Baikonur cosmodrome. The words “T-minus” are heard, and an unrelenting pressure builds up in your chest as a booming voice counts down “3, 2, 1 blastoff”…. There is no immediate applause, but about a minute later as the words “pitch over” are heard, happy chatter is all that can be heard.

It was only my second day on the job, but it was here in company of flight surgeons, biomedical engineers, and astronaut's media managers who were together watching the launch of German astronaut Alexander Gerst, where I found my home for the summer as an intern at the ESA European Astronaut Center.
Located in Cologne Germany, the European Astronaut Center is the heart of the “selection and recruitment of new ESA astronauts, the planning and scheduling of their tasks and flight assignments, and the preparation and implementation of astronaut training programmed for space missions to the International Space Station (ISS)”. Here at EAC, one can encounter many astronauts training and working… Samantha Christoforetti (Italy), Thomas Pesquet (France), and David Saint-Jacques (Canada) to name a few. You will also encounter the flight surgeons, engineers and all the in-betweens supporting human exploration. As numerous as the staff, are the many SpaceShip EAC, or PANGEA interns working on technologies and operational concepts in support of ESA’s exploration strategy.

Coming from a background in extreme physiology, and with experience in space cardiovascular physiology from my work at the International Space University, my role here lies with the space medicine office. Currently, I am working on technology development for fitness monitoring devices on the International Space Station. Thus far, this has entailed creating physiological justification for tests and equipment as well as testing new devices to identify and propose solutions to the operational challenges that microgravity presents. I have been fortunate to work with the human centrifuge at Envihab as well as be in close communication with Flight Surgeons like Sergi Vaquer and Biomedical Engineers. I look forward to the possibilities of parabolic flight testing, and presentations at ASMA and the IAC that my project prospects.

Apart from internship duties, the EAC experience is enriched with various presentations from the Antarctica Concordia Expedition, talks from the former ISU alumni and current ISS mission control operations specialist Antonio Fortunato, and big picture meetings from Space Medicine Team Lead Guillaume Weerts. At EAC, I am also involved in the piloting of a new research, education, and development group for space medicine interns with my mentor Dr. Dave Green.

In my spare time, you can find me training like an astronaut here at the EAC gym or exploring the rich culture of Cologne. This city is located on both sides of the Rhine river near Germany’s borders with Belgium and the Netherlands. Cologne boasts the tallest twin-spired cathedral, and a thriving landscape of art galleries which are fun to explore.

The sentiments I felt on the first day at EAC are even stronger today, there is a certain element from knowing the impact your work has on the future of human exploration, that further motivates you to give some more. Cheers to the future internship students at ISU! “

The last module of ISU's Master of Space Studies (MSS) program is a three-month internship that ISU students carry out in space agencies, space companies, start-ups, universities and other space-related organizations. ISU MSS students are working all over the world, gaining valuable skills in many different environments, on many different types of projects.

More about ISU’s Master of Space Studies program