Franz Viehböck

Franz Viehböck, the first Austrian in space, fulfilled his dream of the space flight, developed an impressive international career and continues to enjoy new challenges associated with advancement, innovation and his vision of the future. Franz Viehböck worked as an Assistant Professor at the Vienna Technical University when a newspaper announcement of a possible Austrian flight to the space station “Mir” caught his attention. Sending an application meant not only an adventure but also a challenge that could shape his future in an unexpected way. He knew, two years training in Star City near Moscow would test his mental and physical limits, but first he had to be elected as one of the best, between many ambitious, competitive young people.

After exhausting selection, he and Clemens Lothaler were chosen as candidates for the joint Austrian-Soviet Mission in space. From now on, Franz Viehböck concentrated enormous energy, completing one test after another, all with outstanding results. The vision of him sitting in the cockpit of a space rocket made him use his mental and physical capabilities to their utmost. Until shortly before the launch it was uncertain who from the two trained cosmonauts will join the first team – the tiny difference in mental preparedness made Franz boarding the cockpit of the rocket on October 2, 1991.

The successful launch wasn’t only the start of an unforgettable space adventure but also the beginning of new challenges and opening of new horizons in his professional and private life. The rewards of seeing the beauty of our planet from a different perspective and feeling the excitement of weightlessness overshadowed the exhaustion of hard working schedule in the space station. The return to Earth with the landing on solid ground, the most dangerous part of the mission, was followed by an unexpected popularity and public interest throughout the country. For the next two years, he toured through Austria and several other countries sharing his experience and impressions with countless people: children, students, public, scientific and corporate organizations.

In early 1994, following his ambition to enter the world of High Tech industry, he accepted a position with Rockwell Space Systems Division in Los Angeles, California. His motivation, flexibility, team spirit and international connections accelerated a remarkable career. Shortly after Boeing acquired the former Rockwell Aerospace and defense group, Franz became Director of International Business Development. In support of Boeing’s vision to become a global company, he went for an assignment to Austria as Director General and European representative for Boeing’s Space and Communication Group.

The dynamics and development of international space and defense business made it necessary for Franz to return to California in early 2002. For the first time in his career, his children expressed the wish not to relocate again. For Franz, this was an opportunity to start something completely new, he was ready for the new challenge: he accepted a position of the president of Berndorf Band, a company using high technology in the production of endless steel belts. Franz Viehböck has boundless energy and rarely stops moving. In his speeches, he draws upon the experience and insights of the space mission emphasizing the importance of stress and conflict management, teamwork, motivation and innovation for managers of successful companies. He isn’t only sharing the memories of his momentous space adventure, but encouraging the audiences to believe in the values of human spirit and to “reach for the stars”.

Habitation on the space station MIR

On the 5th October the working day on board of the orbital complex MIR started at 8:00 a.m. ZUP-time, and lasted till 11:00 p.m. Franz Viehboeck as well as the soviet cosmonauts attended primary on medical experiments.

The medical experiments were prior enquiries of physiological reactions of the organism to weightlessness, which had at this time only been explored insufficient. The main part of the medical experiments - designated as Block I and Block II - were accomplished on the second and on the fifth day of the space flight. Block I included the coeval accomplished experiments AUDIMIR, MONIMIR and OPTOVERT centralised, and Block II the also coeval accomplished experiments MIKROVIB, PULSTRANS, and MOTOMIR.


Through contact with radiation in space, space vehicles can corrode. This means changes in the physical, electrical and mechanical properties of structural, protection and isolation materials. Spacecraft nearer to earth are attacked by oxygen atoms of the topmost atmosphere, whereby organic material are affected the most. In manned space stations, organic gas emissions for the station itself also play a role. Contaminated substances (19497 Byte) under the influence of external radiation build up on the surface of the space station. The project was defined as a technological development task. Decisive for the choice of this experiment was the absolute innovation of such a task setting, because similar devices for the usage on earth are too big and heavy.

The experiment has shown that such a complex precision instrument like an ion microscope can be brought into orbit without any damage. The stability of the newly developed minitiaturized liquid metal ion emitter in difficult operating conditions on board the space station has shown its application capability in a micro-analytical device. The device parameters and output data measured on MIR and identical with those measured on earth.

Controlling the device on board did not cause any problems. A cosmonaut can therefere complete complex tasks once the apparatus is completed into an ion microprobe mass spectrometer. After the AUSTROMIR 91 mission ended, the MIGMAS-A device was switched on another five times between January and July 1992 by the cosmonauts on board the station. For this reason one wanted to determine the long-term stability under the storage conditions on MIR and to establish the optimal system parameters in microgravity. These efforts were carried out free of charge by the Russian partners in the AUSTROMIR project and were as an advance for a planned future project.

Both the Austrian and the Russian experimenters hope on a continuation of the project, especially after the remarkable results of the MIGMAS-A apparatus. The device functioned faultlessly on board the space station till MIR crashed.