From a packed lecture theatre at Delft University of Technology, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called ESA astronaut André Kuipers on board the International Space Station yesterday. "André, this is Mark Rutte. How are you doing?"
Clearly delighted to be in contact with André in space, Rutte went on to say that the call was one of the best things he has done in his job as Prime Minister.
"It is a very big honour for me to talk to you and the students," replied André floating inside the Station's Japanese Kibo module. "I have been here for two and a half weeks now. I am getting used to it. It is becoming my home."
During the call André also highlighted the importance of involving youth and students in his PromISSe mission, describing the Spaceship Earth (Ruimteschip Aarde) project for schoolchildren, "I think that this could be one of the most important legacies of this mission - to encourage at least a small percentage of those students to enter into a career in science and technology."
In reply to a question about whether he has any free time in space, André explained that the crew works long days, with all the maintenance and repair work and experiments, as well as a lot of exercise to make sure that they stay fit for the return to Earth. "Of course we also need to have free time - you can listen to music or look out of the window and we eat together. All the things that you normally do at home, except that we can't go out for a walk."
Asked about the most beautiful place he had seen on Earth, André listed Australia and the turquoise waters around the Bahamas as being amongst his favourites. "The Earth at night is also very special. It is fantastic to be on the dark side of the planet with all the city lights, but also lightening, northern lights and sunsets."
Seeing Earth from his perspective in space, André remarked how beautiful the planet is. "You realise that we have to be careful with the planet but also with each other."
Image credits album: ESA-A.Le Floc'h
Video replay: See previous post (in Dutch and English): Video replay: Dutch Prime Minister calls the ISS