Working together, pilots from the Royal Dutch Airforce and the Royal Marines delivered European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut André Kuipers back to the European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC), following his 6-month stay on the International Space Station.
Though Kuipers, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, and NASA astronaut Don Pettit landed their Soyuz TMA-03M capsule in Kazakhstan on July 1, it's only now that they return to their respective countries.
The Prince of Holland and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, ESA directors and the mayor of Noordwijk, where ESTEC is located, all turned up to greet him, and the town was decorated properly for the occasion. The turnout was impressive.
“André is an exemplary ESA colleague, not only because of his job but also because he is always smiling,” ESA director-general, Jean-Jacques Dordain, told the gathering yesterday, August 30.