TEDxDelft to the edge of Space

An awesome and inspiring event is in high gear preparation at the moment: TEDxDelft will take place in the TU Delft Aula congress centre on the 7th of November. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment & Design and is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. TEDx is a brand used by independent organizations for setting up a day of cutting edge presentations, following a set of rules that guarantee value for the audience, delivered by worldclass speakers. One of those speakers at TEDxDelft is of key interest to me. He is an astronaut and a physicist.

Ask a Dutch citizen who the Dutch astronauts are and dependent on the age of the citizen under question, the answer will either be André Kuipers or Wubbo Ockels. There is however a third 'unknown' Dutch astronaut, who was actually the first Dutch to reach the high frontier in April of 1985, just a few months before Wubbo Ockels did. His name is Lodewijk van den Berg, born in Sluiskil in 1932. He became an American citizen in 1975 because of his classified work in the field of crystal growth. His expertise on the subject also resulted in a ticket for the Space Shuttle Challenger STS-51B mission to which he was appointed to do experiments on crystal growth under microgravity conditions. So officially, he went into Space as an American and didn't qualify for the Dutch astronaut ranking. A fascinating aspect of his flight was that he went as a rookie into Space at the relatively old age of 53 and that he only knew a few months beforehand that he would go. Several astronauts sometimes wait and train for more than a decade for their first flight.

This is the first of a number of 'Eye on Orbit' blogposts about the TEDxDelft event on November 7. In the coming weeks, I will specifically cover the spacey edge of the event, the history and expertise of Delft in space engineering and of course Lodewijk van den Berg who is going to talk at TEDxDelft. The value of Space to society is worldwide under big debate at the moment. Three decades of Space Shuttle flights has come to an end this year and the strained US federal budgets seem not to commit to new institutional endeavours with the grandeur of the Apollo and the Space Shuttle projects of the past. The commercial exploration sector is getting more and more momentum at the same time. Read my blog and you will find out that we live in an amazing era with respect to human evolution and that Space plays a center role in that. After all, we are all astronauts, travelling through the universe with Spaceship Earth.

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