Press release: 20 years of flight Dirk Frimout
24 March 2012-20 years ago, the first Belgian astronaut, Dirk Frimout flew aboard the space shuttle STS-45 for the space mission "Atlas1".
On 24 March 1992 Dirk Frimout, first Belgian astronaut from Poperinge in West Flanders, departed into space, along with six American astronauts. Among them the commandant, who is now no one less than the current head of the NASA, Charles Bolden. They participated in the Space Shuttle mission "Atlas 1" with the primary aim the study of the Earth's atmosphere and the relationship between the Sun and the Earth.
Ever since he was little, Dirk Frimout had a passion for space and he dedicated his entire professional life to space sciences. He envisions as an astronaut candidate in 1977 at the first selection of astronauts from the European Space Agency (ESA). Only fifteen years later, he can make his trip to space as a NASA astronaut, currently in service of the ESA research center "ESTEC” in the Netherlands.
Perhaps less known is that Dirk Frimout began his scientific career at the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA) from 1965 to 1978. As head of the department Instrumentation he is responsible for many experiments on board of stratospheric balloons and sounding rockets. He also works there on the design of the raster spectrometer which will fly in the Spacelab module during the "Atlas1 mission".
Dirk Frimout flew as a payload specialist. During the Mission of 8 days, 12 experiments were performed, including 4 belgian.
20 years later, BIRA-IASB is still interested in the Earth's atmosphere. For example, the scientists observe the degradation of the ozone layer and the main parameters associated with it, such as volcanic aerosols, polar stratospheric clouds and halogenated compounds. The researchers of the institute evaluate the long-term changes to be able to develop predictive tools.
The BIRA, however, is interested in all atmospheres, both earthly as "extraterrestrial", such as those around comets or other planets in our solar system. Sometimes the observed phenomena on Mars and Venus resemble what we already know, and they give us valuable information about our own atmosphere, its history, its future and even the origin of life on Earth! Other research themes of the BIRA are the physics of space plasma, the solar wind, magnetosphere …