Meet the next ISS astronauts as they prepare for 'change-over'

HOUSTON – In early June, two astronauts and one cosmonaut will launch from Star City, Russia, headed to the International Space Station for a change-over. 

The astronauts, including a Houston-area resident, say they will spend the time between now and launch preparing for final exams to show the Russians they are ready to launch on a Russian rocket and to learn everything they can about the International Space Station.

The American astronaut, who also graduated from medical school in our area, is one of the three headed to the International Space Station. The others include a Russian cosmonaut and an astronaut from the European Space Agency.

They are Dr. Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, Alexander Gerst and Sergei Prokopyev.

Dr. Auñón-Chancellor received her Doctorate of Medicine from The University of Texas - Health Science Center at Houston in 2001, completed a three-year residency in internal medicine at UTMB in Galveston in 2004, and then completed an additional year as Chief Resident in the Internal Medicine Department in 2005, according to her official biography from NASA. She also completed an aerospace medicine residency at UTMB as well as a Master of Public Health in 2007, it said.

Photo Date: October 2, 2009 Location: Bldg. 8, Room 272 Photo Studio Subject: Official Astronaut portrait of Serena Aunon Photographer: Robert Markowitz

“Dr. Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor began working with NASA as a Flight Surgeon in 2006. In 2009, she was selected as a NASA astronaut. During her NASA career, Dr. Auñón-Chancellor spent more than nine months in Russia supporting medical operations for International Space Station crew members in Star City. She also served as Deputy Crew Surgeon for STS-127. Board certified in both Internal and Aerospace Medicine, Dr. Auñón-Chancellor currently handles medical issues for both the Commercial Crew and International Space Station Operations branch,” NASA’s official biography read. 

At a news conference at NASA’s Johnson Space Center she said, "For us, in all honesty, this is like one big family. So, it was not uncomfortable at all. It was extremely smooth."

According to the European Space Agency’s official biography page, Alexander Gerst was born in Künzelsau, Germany, on May 3, 1976.  ESA said, “In 2003 he received a diploma in geophysics from the University of Karlsruhe, Germany, and a master’s degree in Earth sciences from the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Both degrees were awarded with distinction. In 2010 Alex graduated with a Doctorate in Natural Sciences at the Institute of Geophysics of the University of Hamburg, Germany.”

He was selected as an ESA astronaut in May 2009 and completed his astronaut basic training a year later.

He spent six months in space on the International Space Station in 2014.

According to Wikipedia, Sergei Prokopyev was born on February 19, 1975 in Sverdlovsk.  He was selected to be a Russian cosmonaut in October 2010.  He will be the commander for the Soyuz that will carry the Expedition 56 crew to the International Space Station in June.