April 25 – Happy Birthday, Frank De Winne

Posted on April 25, 2014

For many years, the only astronauts in the world were either American or Russian.

And the Russian astronauts weren't even called “astronauts” – they were cosmonauts.

But these days, with the International Space Station orbiting the Earth, available for experiments, 35 countries have sent up astronauts into space. This includes astronauts working for ESA, the European Space Agency...and those astronauts include two from Belgium...and the second of those two Belgian astronauts is today's birthday boy!

Born in Ghent, Belgium (in the northern, Flemish region of Belgium), on this date in 1961, Frank De Winne became the first ESA astronaut to command a space mission. He's been to space twice. During his 2002 mission, which lasted about 12 days, De Winne was able to carry out 23 different experiments. The second mission is the one that De Winne commanded; in 2009, De Winne and five other astro/cosmonauts went to the ISS for 186 days. It was the 21st long-duration mission.

De Winne is currently the Head of the ESA's European Astronaut Centre in Cologne / Koln, Germany. This is where ESA astronauts are trained.

Did you know...?
  • Russia is currently the only nation capable of launching astronauts into orbit. Of course, the U.S. used to have this capability, but the last Space Shuttle was retired in 2011. Russia's Soyuz rocket is the most frequently used and most reliable launch vehicle in the world, so far. The first unmanned Soyuz mission was launched in 1966. In 1967 Soyuz 1 launched; both Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 11 had re-entry problems, and in total four cosmonauts died. However, Soyuz 2 through 10 and 12 through 66 were all successfully completed without fatalities.
  • NASA (the U.S. space agency) is working on a new heavy-lift launch vehicle called Space Launch System.
  • So far, seven people from the U.S., South Africa, the U.K., and Canada have become the first space tourists. They paid between 20 and 40 million dollars each for the pleasures of training hard, risking their lives, and floating in outer space, with the best worlds of the world!
This view of the world from the ISS also
shows a Soyuz vehicle docked, ready to
return to the Earth when needed. There is
at least one Soyuz docked at the ISS
 at all times, in case it is needed for emergency
(By the way, one of the American space tourists—and so far the only female space tourist—is from Iran, and another is from Hungary.)

Also on this date:

Peppercorn Day in Bermuda 

Anniversary of the first seeing-eye dog in the U.S.

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