Thank you, Queen Beatrix, from space!
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and the Dutch Royal Family have always taken a strong interest the European space programme and especially so when much of ESA’s activity takes place on Dutch soil, at ESTEC in Noordwijk.
Forty-five years ago, it was Beatrix, then as Princess Beatrix of Netherlands, who inaugurated ESTEC in April 1968. Princess Beatrix and her husband Prince Claus visited ESTEC again in 1977, during the state visit of the President of Surinam, and former Dutch delegate to ESRO, Dr Johan Ferrier. The royal party was welcomed by ESA’s Director of Administration, George van Reeth, and the Director of ESTEC, Dr Johan Berghuis.
In 1984, in celebration of 20 years of European cooperation in space, an exhibition was held in the Test Hall at ESTEC from 28 April to 5 May of that year. On the day of the official celebration, 9 May, Queen Beatrix attended a ceremony with international speakers from the space community. Several ministers and over 400 high-ranking officials from European countries and the space industry were present, treated to a live video press conference via ESA’s ECS satellite with four participating countries.
Queen Beatrix visited ESTEC in June 1990 for the inauguration of the Test Centre’s Large European Acoustic Facility and Compact Payload Test Range. On the same day, she officially opened ESTEC’s visitor centre, Noordwijk’s Space Expo, meeting Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels as well as several distinguished international astronauts.
On 29 April 2000, Queen Beatrix and her family visited an ESA stand on the Katwijk beachfront on the occasion of her birthday celebrations.
In October 2001, Queen Beatrix entertained King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain at ESTEC as part of their state visit. They visited ESTEC’s Erasmus User Information Centre for the International Space Station and met with Director General Antonio Rodotà and ESA astronauts Pedro Duque, André Kuipers and Umberto Guidoni.
Last year, as part of the Italian state visit to the Netherlands, Queen Beatrix and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano toured ESTEC, accompanied by the Dutch Minister for Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, Maxime Verhagen, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and Franco Ongaro, Head of ESTEC.
On 28 January, Queen Beatrix announced her abdication, bringing to an end a reign of 33 years. Succeeding her to the throne are Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima. After the investiture, which is taking place in Amsterdam on 30 April, the Netherlands will be ruled over by King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima.
ESTEC has always cherished the ties it has had with the Dutch Royal Family, and we would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to Queen Beatrix for her support. We wish Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima much happiness in their new roles.