The ISS is seen as a stepping-stone for the building of a future Moon base?
There is a lot of talk about this. The ISS certainly is a stepping-stone for the further exploration of space. I think that everyone working in the world of space is convinced that the ISS is not an end point. There are a lot of ideas, thinking in different ways and about different approaches: a Moon base, a manned mission to Mars… The ISS is not the final goal.
What is the contribution of Belgium to the ISS programme?
Belgium makes a considerable contribution via ESA, especially in the field of the development of new technologies. For instance there is the development of the Crew Return Vehicle (CRV). Belgium makes a large contribution to the X-38 programme for the CRV. And there is science. Although Belgium is a small country it is paying 10% of the scientific equipment for the European Columbus laboratory, which will be docked to the ISS in 2004. So Belgium’s efforts are considerable.
Do you experience rivalry between the participating countries?
No, not rivalry. But of course there are differences in terms of technology, operations and on the highest political level: what should be our goals? One of the biggest challenges and also advantages of the Space Station has been that we were able to surpass these differences. We don’t see it as rivalry, but as a challenge to solve problems. Until now, we’ve been doing a fairly good job.