Dutch Prime Minister ‘phones’ André Kuipers in space

12 January 2012

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, and students from the Technical University of Delft recently enjoyed speaking with ESA astronaut André Kuipers about life on the International Space Station during a live event.

Mark Rutte chatted with André and acted as master of ceremonies on Tuesday as the students asked questions.

Former astronaut Thomas Reiter, now ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations, and the first European commander of the Space Station, ESA astronaut Frank De Winne, entertained the audience in Delft, the Netherlands, with anecdotes about their time in space.

Living on the Station requires recycling – even sweat and urine. Frank joked: “On a given day, you drink a cup of coffee, the next day you drink the same cup of coffee again, and a few days later you end up drinking your colleague’s cup of coffee as well.”

Mr Rutte asked André how he had settled in on the Station. “It is wonderful,” replied André. “I have adjusted well to life in space and it is really starting to feel like home.”

Life in space is similar to life back on Earth, according to André – when they are not working they play music, eat dinner together and look out of the window from time to time.

André told the students about the Spaceship Earth educational project: “One of the most important things is to motivate schoolchildren. At that age, children become inspired and interested.

Directors Ongaro and Reiter (centre)

“If only a small number of students are influenced to continue their careers in science or engineering, then that is a good result of this mission.”

Afterwards, Mr Rutte commented: “That was one of the nicest events that I have done in my job as Prime Minister.”

Thomas Reiter and Franco Ongaro, ESA Director of Technical and Quality Management, talked with the Prime Minister before the event about the important role of space for society.

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