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Claude Nicollier

First Astronaut from Switzerland


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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. His service with the Swiss Air Force was a part time activity from 1966 to 2004, and he flew on the Venom, Hawker Hunter and F-5E Tiger aircraft types. He was active as a First Officer on the DC-9 aircraft with SWISSAIR from 1974 to 1976.

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. After several years of training and various jobs at JSC, he served as a crewmember on four Shuttle missions between 1992 and 1999, including two on-orbit interventions on the Hubble Space Telescope. During his last mission in December 1999, he performed a spacewalk of more than 8 hours duration to install new equipment on the orbiting observatory. He spent a total of more than 1000 hours in space during these four missions.

He is currently a member of the Swiss Space Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, and honorary Professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He teaches a Masters level course entitled « Space Mission Design and Operations “, also accessible on line as a MOOC course provided on the edX platform.


  • Space Mission Design
  • Solar Powered Technology