The appointment of a Belgian astronaut in space falls on the same day as the entry into the running of the Red Devils at the World Cup. The most superstitious will see it as a sign that our national team will win its first star in Qatar. And for good reason, Belgium has so far only sent two astronauts into space: Dirk Frimout (March-April 1992) and Frank De Winne (October-November 2002 and May-December 2009), who is also chief of the European Astronaut Center.

The new promotion of ESA astronauts was presented this Wednesday at the Grand Palais Éphémère (GPE) in Paris. It is made up of professional astronauts, reserve astronauts, as well as astronauts with physical disabilities, as part of a feasibility project. And among the six lucky ones – these professional astronauts will join ESA’s European astronaut corps) – is a Belgian.

For Raphaël Liégeois, who studied at the University of Liège between 2011 and 2015, it’s a daydream. It must be said that ESA received more than 22,500 valid applications for the post of astronaut from all Member States and Associate Members. As a reminder, the European Space Agency aimed to recruit four to six professional astronauts who will join ESA’s European Astronaut Corps.

For Thomas Dermine, Secretary of State for Recovery and Strategic Investments in charge of space policy, Belgium fully deserves this award. “This is an excellent signal for the space sector in Belgium and an incredible way to promote science in Belgium, especially among young people.he says. It is an immense pride because astronauts are the emblems of a country, of science, symbol of science, of conquest, we know that we are on the eve of a new phase with the sending of humans on the moon, we are also going to prepare for exploration on Mars. Moreover, in the pool of candidates, Belgium was very well represented (more than 1000 candidates). Our country has a series of objective assets that we will continue to highlight during the Ministerial in Paris.”.

On the sidelines of the ministerial, the 22 Member States of ESA will agree on the future developments of European space policy for the period 2023-2027. ESA’s priorities will be set in a context marked in particular by renewed geostrategic tension, in particular the end of space collaboration with Russia or the emergence of the cyber threat and the acceleration of international competition, in particular on pitchers.

The ESA has in fact asked the Member States to finance an ESA budget increased by 25% for the period 2023 to 2025. With the objective of maintaining a lead in Earth observation and programs exploration to remain a partner of choice for NASA.

Thomas Dermine with Raphaël Liégeois, the new Belgian astronaut
Thomas Dermine with Raphaël Liégeois, the new Belgian astronaut ©Cabinet Dermine

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