Claude Nicollier graduated from the University of Lausanne in 1970 (Bachelor of Science in physics) and the University of Geneva in 1975 (Master of Science in astrophysics). He also graduated as a Swiss Air Force pilot in 1966, an airline pilot in 1974 (flew DC-9s for Swissair 1974-1976), and a test pilot in 1988 (Empire Test Pilot's School, Boscombe Down, United Kingdom).
Claude Nicollier has been for nearly 30 years a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut of Swiss nationality. He was a member of the first group of ESA astronauts selected in 1978. He then joined Group 9 of NASA astronauts in 1980 for Space Shuttle training at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, where he was stationed until September 2005. His technical assignments in Houston included Space Shuttle flight software verification in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL), development of Tethered Satellite System (TSS) retrieval techniques, Remote Manipulator System (RMS) and International Space Station (ISS) robotics support.
From 1996 to 1998, he was Head of the Astronaut Office Robotics Branch. From 2000 on, he was a member of the Astronaut Office EVA (Extravehicular Activity) Branch, while maintaining a position as Lead ESA astronaut in Houston.
During his assignment in Houston, he also maintained an active duty status within the Swiss Air Force with a rank as Captain, flying Hawker Hunter, Northrop F-5E "Tiger", and Pilatus PC-9 aircraft until end of 2004. He has logged more than 6400 flight hours, 4000 of which in jet aircraft.
Claude Nicollier has been a crewmember on four Space Shuttle flights, STS-46 in 1992 (EURECA deployment and first test of a Tethered Satellite System or TSS), STS-61 in 1993 (first servicing mission of the Hubble Space Telescope), STS-75 in 1996 (second flight of TSS, and USMP-3 microgravity investigations), and STS-103 in 1999 (third servicing mission of the Hubble Space Telescope). He has logged more than 1000 hours in space, including a spacewalk of more than 8 hours duration to install new equipment on the Hubble Space Telescope on STS-103.
He became the 115th astronaut to make a spacewalk during his last mission STS-103 in 1999. Only 205 out of 550 astronauts made extra vehicular activities, a great honor!
He retired from ESA in 2007, and is currently professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne or EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) where he teaches a course on “Space Mission Design and Operations”, and provides assistance to students on various space related projects.
He is a recipient of Honorary Doctorates from EPFL, and the Universities of Geneva and Basel.