André Kuipers' diary
My name is André Kuipers and I have been a member of the European Astronaut Corps since 1999. After having worked on a number of other missions, including those of my fellow ESA astronauts Frank De Winne and Pedro Duque, in April it will be my turn. I will fly on my first mission into space.
The mission is named DELTA. It has a number of goals. First of all, the delivery of a new permanent crew to the International Space Station: my Russian Soyuz commander, Gennadi Padalka, and the American astronaut Mike Fincke. I will return to Earth with the present crew, who by then will have lived on the ISS for six months. In addition, the Soyuz spacecraft, which serves as a lifeboat, will be replaced
During my eight days on the Space Station I will carry out Dutch and European experiments. For example, I will be testing a vibrating vest that helps to get your sense of direction in space and may help to counter space sickness. I will also study a new generation of light bulbs, which are not yet functioning at their best on Earth.
Contact with various schools in the Netherlands forms an important part of the mission. Some schools are taking part in the 'Seeds in Space' experiment, in which salad mustard is grown simultaneously on Earth and in space. We will see whether this 'rucola' grows upwards because of the light or in response to gravity.
In my free time, I will be able to 'phone my girlfriend, my parents or my two daughters, and to email friends. This is all possible from space.
After Wubbo Ockels, I will be the second Dutch astronaut to go into space. When he was chosen to be an ESA astronaut in 1978, I had just started studying medicine. Since that time, I have been preoccupied with space travel.
As a doctor, I collaborated in medical experiments looking at the effects of space flight. I studied lung function under weightless conditions and flew several times, in the capacity of doctor, researcher and test subject, on the parabolic flights that ESA carries out twice a year.
Training for the DELTA Mission mainly takes place at Star City, near Moscow. There I learn, for example, how the Soyuz rocket works and how to survive under extreme conditions. I also get lessons in Russian every week, because you have to have a good command of the language as a cosmonaut on board a Russian spacecraft.
Training for my mission is hard work, but pleasurable. There is something special and also mysterious about space travel. It must be a fantastic experience to see the Earth from space. That is why I am looking forward to it so much… In the run-up to my mission, I will report my experiences in this weekly diary.
I hope you enjoy reading it!