The new Spanish Prime Minister has announced on June 6 his intention to appoint Spanish ESA astronaut Pedro Duque as Minister for Science, Innovation and Universities.
“It is a great privilege to be able to transfer my experience as an astronaut, project manager and space sector CEO to my new role in the government,” says Duque. “I am looking forward to increasing awareness in science and technology among Spanish citizens.”
Duque became the first Spanish citizen in space, when he was launched on the Space Shuttle Discovery for STS-95 mission from 29 October to 7 November 1998. The nine-day mission was dedicated to research in weightlessness and the study of the Sun. Pedro was responsible for the five ESA scientific facilities and for the computer system on the Space Shuttle.
Duque made his second spaceflight when he flew the 10-day Cervantes mission on the International Space Station from 18 to 28 October 2003. He was Flight Engineer on the Soyuz TMA-3 as part of Expedition 7/8.
On this mission, he ran an extensive experiment programme in life and physical sciences, Earth observation, education and technology, including experiments in the Microgravity Science Glovebox, a research facility developed in Europe.
In 2006, Duque took special leave from ESA to head an Earth observation project with Deimos Imaging SL (DMI), a private company that runs a commercial Earth observation system with its own satellite and ground stations.
In 2011, he returned to ESA as member of the European Astronaut Corps to head the Flight Operations Office, located at the Columbus Control Centre near Munich, Germany. For the last three years, he has worked in the Astronaut Corps with responsibility for the control and review of future ESA projects.
Duque received the congratulations of ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker and the Head of the European Astronaut Centre Frank de Winne.
The announcement comes on the same day that Duque’s colleague, German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, launches on the ESA Horizons mission and his second long-duration flight on board the International Space Station.
Directly from the launch site in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, ESA Director General Jan Wörner says, “Along with all of ESA, I congratulate ESA astronaut Pedro Duque as he prepares for his new role. I am sure he will tackle politics with the same verve as astronautics and never forget his ESA family.”