ESA astronaut Pedro Duque follows in the tradition of the great Spanish explorers of past centuries when he climbs aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery tomorrow, Thursday 29 October, for a historic flight into a new world.
Duque, 35, will become the first Spaniard to fly in space when he blasts into orbit with an international crew, which includes the veteran US astronaut John Glenn, on mission STS-95. His spaceflight is the latest in a series for Europe, amassing valuable experience in preparation for the International Space Station, which is to be assembled in orbit, starting this year. As well as having a member of its astronaut team on board Discovery, the European Space Agency (ESA) is supporting STS-95 with five advanced scientific experiment facilities installed in the Spacehab module, located in the payload bay. Scientists from eight European countries - Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom - have experiments on the flight to study the effects of weightlessness on various materials and substances. Pedro Duque will oversee the operation of these experiments.
Pasquale Di Palermo, ESA's mission manager, describes the mission as "a valuable opportunity for Europe to experiment both in space and on the ground in preparation for the International Space Station".
Tense moments for the crew and ground controllers will come during the deployment and retrieval of a small satellite called Spartan, which will fly free of the Shuttle for two days to collect information on the stream of charged particles from the Sun known as the solar wind. In case there is a problem with the operation of the satellite or in retrieving it, ESA astronaut Pedro Duque has been specially trained to go outside the Shuttle and help place it back in the cargo bay.
"I'm looking forward to the flight itself, experiencing life in microgravity and being able to look down on the Earth. It is a great adventure but it will also be a time of intense hard work and activity," said Duque.
"For me it is a great honour not only to represent my own nation and the rest of Europe, but also to have the privilege of working alongside John Glenn.
"We're learning a lot about international cooperation and this will be a final check for some of the ESA science facilities to make sure they and the ground teams will work efficiently on the International Space Station," he added.
Launch of Discovery from pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida is scheduled for Thursday 29 October, with a launch window from 20:00 to 22:30 Central European Time (14:00 to 16:30 local time).
Landing is planned at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on 7 November at 18:04 Central European Time (12:04 local time), given an on-time launch and normal mission. For further information, see the ESA web page at http://www.estec.esa.int/spaceflight.
During the mission, contact:
28-30 October ESA Press Desk at Kennedy Space Center, Florida Tel: (407) 639-4389
31 Oct-07 Nov ESA Press Desk at Johnson Space Center, Houston Tel: (281) 218-6836, Fax: (281) 218-6420
02-07 Nov Press Desk at ESA Villafranca, Madrid Tel: (34) 91 813 12.11 Fax: (34) 91 813 12.12