'Moonage daydream'

Cologne, Germany (dpa) - Germany's new astronaut, Matthias Maurer, hasn't even been assigned his first mission yet, but he's already dreaming big.

"Of course the ISS [International Space Station] is a really great goal at the moment. But the moon would be something that I could imagine doing and would like to do," Maurer told dpa.

With plans to send people to Mars already under way, a lunar mission would be part of that longer-term plan, he explained. "The moon is a kind of stepping stone for that."

On the moon, astronauts could test and practise techniques that would later apply to a landing on the Red Planet.

Maurer, who will be formally introduced to the public at a conference on Thursday, is the second German to join the European Space Agency's (ESA) active astronaut corps, following in the footsteps of Alexander Gerst.

Maurer, 46, has been put through rigorous training in order to earn his place on the team, including a 48-hour endurance test in Sweden in November that challenged him to survive sub-zero temperatures without food, a tent or a sleeping bag.

Earlier in 2016, he spent 16 days in an underwater space simulation tank. "That means you're really on another planet. Everything there seems alien and unnatural. And you know there's no way out," he said of his time spent at a depth of 20 metres.