Houston, we have a Luxembourger going to space
A Luxembourger is getting ready for lift-off into space after beating more than 22,500 applicants to become one of a team of just 17 astronauts selected for the European Space Agency's (ESA) class of 2022.
34-year-old Raphaël Liégeois, a dual Belgian-Luxembourg national, was announced as one of the select few at a press conference in Paris on Wednesday.
Liégeois was born in Belgium to parents who come from the Belgian province of Luxembourg, and one of his grandparents is from the Grand Duchy. The astronaut used to live in Differdange, where some family still live, and he acquired Luxembourgish nationality four years ago.
"My parents come from the province of Luxembourg in Belgium and so we have a family history very attached to Luxembourg. I remember my grandmother singing songs to me in Luxembourgish," Liégeois told broadcaster RTL.
Marc Serres, the head of the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA), said that although Liégeois will be travelling under Belgian colours, a "small part of Luxembourg will also be present in space".
Luxembourg set up the LSA in 2018 to turn Luxembourg into a hub for the commercial exploration of space, a sector often subsidised by government.
The country has granted the ESA funding of €127 million to support several of its programmes during the 2023-2027 period, Economy Minister Franz Fayot said in a statement issued by the Luxembourg Space Agency on Wednesday.
"The contribution of the Grand Duchy to the ESA programmes confirms our determination to establish the space sector as a major axis of the national economic development, while providing direct economic benefits to the Luxembourg space industry," Fayot added in the statement.