Dutch astronaut honoured in The Hague
17 May 2004
AMSTERDAM — After successfully completing an11-day space mission last month, Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers was honoured at a special ceremony in The Hague on Monday and granted the title Knight of the Order of Oranje Nassau.
Kuipers — who returned to the Netherlands from Russia on Saturday — was awarded the honorary title by Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst. The award honours distinguished service or achievement.
Funding from the Economic Affairs and the Education ministries accounted for EUR 12.5 million of the EUR 15 million space mission, in which Kuipers performed a series of experiments and spent nine days in the International Space Station (ISS).
The Government Information Service (RVD) also said on Monday that Kuipers will visit Queen Beatrix and Crown Prince Willem-Alexander at about 10am at the Paleis Huis ten Bosch in The Hague on Tuesday.
The European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut arrived back in the Netherlands with his girlfriend at Schiphol Airport at about 5.30pm on Saturday and said he was feeling “excellent”, news agency ANP reported.
About a 100 people — including Kuipers’ parents and friends — waited for his arrival at the airport. School children who jointly performed an experiment with Kuipers also greeted the 45-year-old upon his arrival.
Kuipers blasted off into space from the Russian launch site in Kazakhstan on 19 April and after his 30 April return to Earth, the first-time astronaut spent two weeks in quarantine in the Russian cosmonaut centre, located just outside Moscow. He was also debriefed and given the chance to allow his body to recover.
“After you return you have less resistance. In the beginning I was very tired and had trouble from muscle pain, back pain and dizziness. But I have quickly recovered,” he said.
Kuipers is now looking forward to a possible second journey into space, admitting that at some point he had not wanted to come back to Earth. On his last night in the ISS, Kuipers said he had simply sat and watched the Earth.
“I saw a lot of thunderstorms and other places that were very beautiful, such as the Sahara, the highlands of Tibet and the atolls in the southern Pacific Ocean,” he said.
Meanwhile, ESA has confirmed that most of the academic experiments conducted by Kuipers were carried out adequately. The biological experiments were negatively affected by technical troubles.
The relatively simple educational experiments were judged a great success and an experiment on lamps — which involved the Eindhoven Technical University and Dutch electronics company Philips — looks promising.
But due to technical defaults, the experiments investigating bone growth and the immune system failed. Research into plant cells also suffered due to technical problems, but researchers expect some results. An experiment involving worms was a success.
Kuipers carried out an extensive experiment programme in the fields of human physiology, biology, microbiology, physical science, earth observation, education and technology.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news