Astronaut Wubbo Ockels dead at 68

The first Dutch astronaut, Wubbo Ockels, died this morning at the age of 68. He had been suffering from renal cell cancer.  Ockels was a physicist, astronaut, pilot and professor. He was the first Dutch man in space when he made a week-long space flight in 1985 with the Challenger space shuttle.

A few days ago, Ockels was admitted to the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital in Amsterdam. A kidney tumor was discovered by accident in 2008. It was removed successfully, but Ockels relapsed in 2013 when the cancer returned. At the time, Ockels was still actively working as professor of Aerospace for Sustainable Science and Technology at the Aviation and Aeronautics faculty at TU Delft. Just a day before he died, Wubbo Ockels still wanted to make a "statement for humanity", and asked the Algemeen Dagblad to record his thoughts on his main mission in life: saving the planet. On what Wubbo himself knows is his deathbed, he urges AD reporter Arno Gelder to relay a message directed at the paper's readership. "I still have a statement, meant for your readers. We have to go towards a new religion, a new energy. And that is called Humanity!" Ockels said he was not afraid of dying. "I have had a wonderful existence. A super life." He bemoans his dying only for the sorrow it will bring his wife, Joos, and his children. People across the Netherlands have been leaving messages of condolence for the family and friends of Prof. dr. Wubbo Johannes Ockels on the website Wubbo Ockels in his 1985 space flight: