ESA’s Director General, Antonio Rodotà, and Spain’s Minister of Industry and Energy, Josep Piqué, announced today that ESA astronaut Pedro Duque has been assigned to the Space Shuttle mission (STS-95) currently scheduled for October 1998. NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin confirmed the appointment during his recent talks with Mr Rodotà at ESA Headquarters in Paris.
Pedro Duque, 34 and of Spanish nationality, will be making his first spaceflight, thus becoming the first Spanish national to go into space. Duque, an aeronautical engineer, was an astronaut candidate proposed to ESA by the Spanish Ministry of Industry and Energy’s Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) following a national selection 1990/91. He was then recruited for the ESA astronaut corps in 1992.
In August 1993, he began training at Star City, Russia, for the joint ESA-Russian Euromir 94 mission. During that 30-day flight (October-November 1994), he coordinated the interface between fellow ESA astronaut Ulf Merbold on board the Russian space station Mir and the scientific investigators and project management on the ground.
In May 1995, NASA selected Duque as an alternate payload specialist for the Space Shuttle’s STS-78 Life and Microgrvity Spacelab (LMS) mission. During that flight (June-July 1996), he acted as the interface between the crew onboard the Shuttle and the researchers on the ground.
Duque is currently in NASA’s Mission Specialist Class at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He is however based at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. He will be a Mission Specialist on STS-95.
His 10-day mission will be dedicated to research in near-weightlessness. In addition to the astronaut, ESA plans to have a significant payload on board: five facilities for scientific investigations. Two of those facilities, one for materials-science experiments and another used to grow protein crystals, were previously onboard the STS-78/LMS flight for which Duque trained. ESA’s three other research facilities will be used to investigate the effects of near-weightlessness on cell cultures, the solidification process in materials, and adsorption and surface tension phenomena.
Biographical information on Pedro Duque is available upon request or via ESA’s web site at: http://www.esa.int
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