Today, at the European Space Agency Moscow office, Mr Antonio Rodotà, ESA Director General, Mr Charles Picqué, Belgian Minister for Scientific Research, Mr Yvan Ylieff, Belgian Commissioner in charge of Scientific Policy, Mr Yuri Koptev of the Russian Aviation and Space Agency (Rosaviakosmos), and Mr Yuri Semonov of the Korolev Rocket Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia), signed the contract for implementation of a flight to the International Space Station for ESA astronaut, Frank De Winne, of Belgian nationality.
Frank De Winne will be flight engineer on a Soyuz "taxi flight" in October this year, an 8 to 10-day mission to the Space Station funded by the Belgian Federal Office for Scientific, Technical and Cultural Affairs (OSTC). The main purposes of the mission will be to exchange the Station's Soyuz vehicle, which serves as the main emergency rescue craft for the Station's crew, and to carry out an important scientific experiment programme and promote valuable international cooperation.
This flight is further evidence of the strengthening cooperation between Europe and Russia. It is one of the outcomes of a framework agreement for European astronauts to fly to the ISS on Russian launchers during the period 2001 to 2006 signed between ESA and Rosaviakosmos in May 2001.
"For the second time in only a few months, after next week's flight by ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori, from Italy", said ESA Director General Antonio Rodotà, "an ESA astronaut will fly to the International Space Station, to continue strengthening our relations with our international partners, Russia in particular, and to carry out an outstanding programme for the European scientific community".
Frank De Winne is the second Belgian astronaut to be assigned to a space mission: the first, Dirk Frimout, flew as payload specialist on a Space Shuttle mission, STS-45, in March-April 1992.
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