Wubbo Ockels, 1946–2014
Former ESA astronaut Wubbo Ockels passed away yesterday in a hospital in the Netherlands. Wubbo was the second ESA astronaut and the first Dutch citizen to go into space, in 1985. During his Spacelab-D1 mission he orbited Earth 110 times over 168 hours.
Born 28 March 1946, in Almelo, the Netherlands, Wubbo gained a degree in physics and mathematics from the University of Groningen in 1973, and completed his PhD in nuclear physics in 1978.
In the same year, Wubbo was selected by ESA as one of three science astronauts to train for the Spacelab missions, together with Ulf Merbold and Claude Nicollier.
During the first Spacelab mission, he served as ground-communicator and liaison-scientist for the crew on STS-9.
Wubbo saw the fame he received as an astronaut as a responsibility to use for good. He championed sustainability, innovation and youth throughout his life.
From 1986, he was based at ESA’s Technology Centre, ESTEC, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, where he supported human spaceflight activities and later became Head of ESA’s Education and Outreach Office. During this time he also held a part-time professorship in aerospace at the Delft University of Technology.
In 2003 he became full-time professor of Aerospace for Sustainable Engineering and Technology at TU Delft, dealing with the exploitation of alternative sources of energy.
Wubbo’s team won the World Solar Challenge in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2013 with their Nuna solar-powered car racing over 3000 km across Australia. Wubbo continued to champion sustainable projects such as the Ecolution ship.
ESA has lost a fantastic ambassador and a dear friend.