Tomorrow, November 18, our Xataka Orange Awards are held (you can follow them from our website and from our canal de Twitch), where we will reward the most important devices and technologies of 2021. A novelty that we will have at this year’s gala is that we are launching a new and very special category: the award Xataka Legend.
With this award we want to recognize the journey and career of a very relevant person in the world of science and technology, with contributions in some of the sectors that we believe will be key in the coming years. Today we have the honor and joy to announce that the winner of the first Xataka Leyenda is … Pedro Duque, the man who put Spain on the space map.
Pedro Duque will accompany us at tomorrow’s gala and we will conduct a short interview, which you can later read in depth at Engadget. We encourage you to follow it live with us.
Pedro Duque, Spanish reference worldwide
Son of Badajoz, mother teacher and father air controller, Pedro Duque was the astronaut who put Spain on the space map when in 1998 he became the first astronaut of Spanish nationality, with an open debate on whether that honor corresponds to Michael López-Alegría, something that does not detract from Duque either.
The man from Madrid, who was 35 years old at the time, graduated as an Aeronautical Engineer in 1986. Immediately afterwards, he began working for GMV, a technology consultancy that operates in the aeronautical and telecommunications sectors, among others. Shortly afterwards he was sent to the European Special Operations Center (ESOC) of the European Space Agency (ESA) in Germany, where he spent six years developing models and algorithms for orbiting spacecraft.
From ESA to space
In 1992 he was selected to be part of the ESA astronaut corps, something that led him to train both in Germany and in Russia to carry out space missions. A training that he carried out, still on the ground, for Spacelab’s Life and Microgravity mission in 1996. There he co-operated between scientists and the Columbia crew. That same year he entered the Class of Mission Specialists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, thanks to which he was appointed Mission Specialist, a requirement to be able to develop missions in the Space Shuttle.
Later, he was able to carry out that training beyond Earth as supervisor of the ESA experimental module aboard Discovery for the STS-95 mission. Eleven days in space researching in zero gravity and studying the Sun. Duque was responsible for the five ESA science facilities and the shuttle’s computer system. He also participated in the design of spacecraft, orbits and laboratories for the ISS.
In April 2001, he joined the first class of European astronauts to receive Advanced Preparation to become part of the ISS crew. In 2003, after completing this training, he again exceeded the Karman line by participating in the Cervantes mission to the International Space Station as a flight engineer for ten days on the Soyuz-TMA spacecraft as part of Expedition 8. There he was in charge of carrying out an experimental program in biology, physics, education and new technologies, including experimentation with the Microgravity Science Glove Box.
After that space flight, the last of the Madrid astronaut, the ESA appointed him as Director of Operations of the Spanish Center for Support to Researchers and Operations for the Space Station, attached to the Polytechnic University of Madrid.
He has also worked at the ETSI Aeronáuticos of the Polytechnic University of Madrid and was CEO at Deimos Imaging, the company that launched the first Spanish earth observation satellite, Deimos-1 or Spain-DMC 1. This satellite was the first in Europe to be entirely private, and was part of Spain’s contribution to the Disaster Monitoring Constellation, a network for monitoring catastrophic events that was also intended to improve agricultural land uses, fire detection and control or the preservation of forests. Today these satellites are managed by GEOSAT.
Returning to ESA in 2011 after five years of leave, he worked work as an astronaut in the European activities of the ISS until in June 2018 he was appointed Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities of the Government of Spain, a position he held until July 2021. Currently he is dedicated to professional private activity as an engineer, academic of Engineering and Astronautics, as well as business management and public administrations.
During his career has received multiple awards, such as the Order of Friendship, awarded by President Yeltsin of the Russian Federation in 1995; the Grand Cross for Aeronautical Merit at the hands of King Juan Carlos I in 1999; or the Prince of Asturias for International Cooperation in that same year for being considered along with three other astronauts as architects of international cooperation in the peaceful exploration of space.