BRUSSELS – Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has travelled to Houston, United States, to meet Raphaël Liégeois, the Belgian career astronaut selected as part of the European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut class of 2022. De Croo’s visit coincides with the ESA cohort’s familiarisation trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Centre, which is the precursor to a further two years of training, delivered in Houston, to prepare the astronauts for their respective missions on the International Space Station. The visit signals a new phase of the long-standing collaboration between Europe and the United States on space research and exemplifies Belgium’s commitment to partnerships in facing global challenges.
Belgium’s expertise in aerospace, and in science more generally, is internationally recognised – in terms of both training and industry. Belgium is a founding member of the ESA and its fifth-largest funder. The country’s support of the ESA shows its commitment to shaping the development of Europe’s space capability and ensuring that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.
“For Belgians, the sky isn’t the limit, the universe is,” said De Croo. “Today, we are very proud to see Raphaël take this important step in his career as an astronaut. He will be an important role model for many generations of STEM students to come. Space research and innovation hold particular importance for Belgium; they are powerful economic drivers which foster the growth of high-tech industries and create jobs – as evidenced by the number of Belgian companies on the cutting edge of aeronautics.”
The 17 members of the ESA astronaut class of 2022 were selected from a pool of over 23,000 applicants. The process, designed to bring together the finest scientific minds that Europe has to offer, took place over a period lasting 18 months.
The selection of Raphaël Liégeois is testament to Belgium’s focus on embracing openness, driven by innovation, partnerships, and diversity, to create solutions that drive progress for all.