Dirk Frimout, the first Belgian in space
Dirk Frimout realised his childhood dream and surely the dream of many other girls and boys, to fly in space. He was the first Belgian to fly to the stars.
As a fan of technology from an early age and having grown up in the era of the first space trials, it was almost natural for Dirk Frimout to study a highly advanced university course. In fact, he graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering (1963) and a PhD in Applied Physics (1970) from the University of Ghent.
Following this distinguished academic career, he went to Colorado in 1972 as a postdoctoral researcher in an atmospheric and space physics laboratory. In 1977, he applied to NASA to be an astronaut for the first time; he was selected among the first twelve from over 2,500 European applicants.
In 1985, he applied again and was selected as a NASA back-up. His flight was scheduled to take place in 1986 but due to the Challenger space shuttle explosion, it was cancelled and postponed until 1992. He flew in space from 24 March to 2 April 1992 as part of the Atlantis mission STS-45, in the company of six Americans. On board, he was responsible for the scientific tests that were carried out. He studied the atmosphere and in particular the Sun's influence on the atmosphere of our blue planet.
Dirk Frimout has received several awards and distinctions. In 2012, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Liège. He has also been decorated as a Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold. On 30 June 1993, King Baudouin gave him hereditary nobility together with the personal title of viscount. The asteroid (5115) Frimout was named in his honour.
© Photo: UGent - Hilde Christiaens