For the third time in history, a Dutch astronaut will go on a space travel. Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers will prepare himself for a stay of six months in the International Space Station ISS.
Kuipers will leave for the ISS in December 2011 and return to earth in June 2012, a spokesperson for Dutch economy minister Maria van der Hoeven confirmed after it was reported in the Telegraaf newspaper Wednesday.
Van der Hoeven, who has presided over the European Space Agency (ESA) for the past two years, personally lobbied to have a Dutchman in space again. Kuipers made his first trip to the ISS in 2004, becoming the second Dutch national in space after Wubbo Ockels in 1985.
The first Dutch-born astronaut to have been to space is Lodewijk van den Berg. Van den Berg was launched aboard Space Shuttle Challenger on April 29, 1985, as a Payload Specialist of mission STS-51B. During the seven-day mission, Van den Berg conducted several experiments on crystal growth.
“The choice for Kuipers once again confirms the leading position of the Dutch in space,” the minister said.
Kuipers (1958) studied medicine at the University of Amsterdam and for two years worked for the department of aviation medicine of the Dutch royal airforce. In December 2002 he was chosen as the board engineer for the Delta mission to the ISS, which took place in 2004. Kuipers conducted scientific, technical and educational experiments while on board.
Kuipers states that he had dreamed of becoming an astronaut ever since he was a teenager. His dreams became reality when he was selected to the European Astronaut Corps in 1998.
It is expected that Kuipers will once again work on behalf of the European scientific and educational space programme when he departs for the ISS in 2011.
Kuipers and two other astronauts will be taken to the ISS by the Russian Sojuz rocket from Kazachstan.