Belgium had Dirk Frimout. Then Frank De Winne. She will now have Raphaël Liégeois. This native of Namur who studied, did a doctorate and carried out his research at the University of Liège is indeed part of the new class of astronauts designated by the European Space Agency (ESA).
Gathered in Paris for the occasion, the Space Ministers of the various countries and the leading figures of ESA first had to adopt the budget for the coming years. But all attention was obviously on the disclosure of the new promotion of astronauts. If the observers expected to have “elected” from the big contributing countries (France, Germany, in particular), several countries hoped to win the Holy Grail.
Including Belgium. The Secretary of State for Science Policy, the socialist Thomas Dermine, thus considered “legitimate” the Belgian ambition to have an astronaut. “It’s been two years since we said we wanted an astronaut. We talk about it nonstop. »
A wish granted! Belgium officially holds the third astronaut in its history in the person of Raphaël Liégeois! He will also be the very first Walloon in space. A simply historic designation for the south of the country. “It’s an immense source of pride, he will be the best ambassador of science and knowledge for Belgium for the next 15 years”, rejoices Thomas Dermine, in charge of space at the federal level.
A doctorate supervised by Steven Laureys
The interested party, 34 years old and father of two children, therefore comes from Namur. He then took the direction of the Ardent City where he studied for a long time. First obtaining a master’s degree in medical and biomedical engineering before embarking on a doctorate in neuroscience, supervised in particular by Professor Steven Laureys, world-renowned Belgian neurologist, active at the GIGA center of ULiège and Francqui prize. Before going to Singapore for postdoctoral research.
Singapore-Namur by bike
At the end of these, Raphaël Liégeois embarked on an incredible experience: the Route des Poètes. With Marine Cauz, they decided to return to Belgium by… bicycle! On the menu, a journey of 15,000 km, including 6,000 by calf strength alone, and a hundred interviews with people reciting poems in local languages. What to baptize their adventure: “On the road of the poets”.
Today, Raphaël Liégeois lives in Switzerland, since he continues his research while teaching at the University of Geneva as well as at the polytechnic school of Lausanne.
Tomorrow, his life will inevitably take another turn. He will have to take the direction of Cologne in Germany, where the training center for European astronauts is located for very intensive training. Before just taking off for space.
Proof of the exceptional side of this designation: no less than 22,500 high-level applications had to be analyzed and then decided. Belgium was well represented since it had more than 1,000 aspiring candidates!
After a two-year selection process, there were 30 “able to fly” left. 30 candidates who still had to be decided and from that moment on, it was a real intense lobbying that started. To achieve this historic news for our country and its spatial history.