37 Dutch people are still in the race to become astronauts
Twenty men and seventeen women from the Netherlands have passed the first selection round of the European Space Agency (ESA), keeping them in the running to become astronauts. Nearly a thousand Dutch people signed up, meaning that about 3.8 percent of them have gone through.
Lithuania was the only country with a higher percentage of eliminated candidates. Denmark had the highest percentage of candidates who made it through the first selection round, with 14.5 percent still in the race.
In total, 1,361 Europeans are still in the picture, including 831 men and 530 women. The ESA released the figures by country earlier this week, which showed France has the most astronaut candidates in contention, 404 in total. This is followed by Germany (194), the United Kingdom (166), and Italy (159). Hungary and Romania are the only countries with more women than men still in the space race.
The ESA plans to reveal the names of the new astronauts in October. Those who are successful will be going to the International Space Station (ISS), and maybe also to a new space station near the moon.
In 2008, when the last selection procedure took place, there were a total of 8,413 applications. More than 200 were Dutch. Six passed the selection and were hired: an Italian woman, and five men from Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. They have all gone to the International Space Station in recent years. In the round before that, in 1998, the Dutch astronaut André Kuipers was hired.
The ESA is also on the lookout for astronauts with certain physical disabilities. This includes but is not limited to, people with one leg considerably shorter than the other, people who are missing a lower leg, and people who are shorter than 1.30 meters. They can become a "para astronaut." There were 257 registrations from that group, including 13 Dutch people. Of the 257, 27 are still in the race. It is not known if any of them are from the Netherlands.
Four native Dutch people have been in space to date. Lodewijk van den Berg from Sluiskil in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen was the first in early 1985. He made his space flight after being naturalized as an American. At the end of 1985, Wubbo Ockels was the first Dutch citizen to orbit the Earth. Van den Berg and Ockels both flew in the space shuttle Challenger.
André Kuipers is the most experienced Dutch astronaut. He went to the ISS for a week and a half in April 2004. He also stayed there from December 2011 to July 2012. The then 18-year-old Oliver Daemen from Oisterwijk went just outside the atmosphere last year as a tourist on a commercial flight.
Reporting by ANP