March 28, 1946 |
|Time in space||7d 00h 44m|
|Selection||1978 ESA Group|
Wubbo Johannes Ockels (born March 28, 1946) is a Dutch physicist and a former astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA). In 1985 he participated in a flight on a space shuttle (STS-61-A), making him the first Dutch citizen in space. He was not the first Dutch-born astronaut, as he is preceded by the naturalized American Lodewijk van den Berg, who flew on STS-51-B. Ockels is currently professor of Aerospace for Sustainable Engineering and Technology at the Delft University of Technology.
Education and early life 
Ockels was born in Almelo but considers Groningen to be his hometown. He obtained his MSc degree in physics and mathematics in 1973 and subsequently a PhD degree in the same subjects in 1978 from the University of Groningen. His thesis was based on experimental work at the Nuclear-physics Accelerator Institute (KVI) in Groningen.
From 1973 to 1978, Ockels performed experimental investigations at the Nuclear Physics Accelerator Institute in Groningen. His work concerned the gamma-ray decay of nuclear systems directly after formation and the development of a data-handling system involving design of electronics and programming of real-time software. He also contributed to the design and construction of position-sensitive charged particle detectors. While at the K.V.I. Institute, Ockels supervised the practical work of first-year physics students at the University of Groningen.
ESA career 
In 1978, he was selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) as one of three European payload specialists to train for the Spacelab 1 mission. In May 1980, under agreement between ESA and NASA, Ockels and Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier were selected to begin the basic astronaut training for mission specialist together with the NASA astronaut candidates at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. Ockels successfully completed this training in August 1981. He rejoined the Spacelab 1 crew for training as a back-up payload specialist to operate experiments aboard Spacelab 1. This mission of a reusable, scientific research facility built by the European Space Agency (ESA) took place aboard the Space Shuttle in November 1983. Spacelab 1 was a joint NASA/ESA mission. Having served his role as back-up payload specialist for German astronaut Ulf Merbold, he took his place in Mission Control in Houston as the primary communicator between the astronauts working in Spacelab and the Mission Management Team in Houston.
Ockels flew as a payload specialist on the crew of STS-61A Challenger (October 30 to November 6, 1985). STS-61A was the West German D-1 Spacelab mission. It was the first to carry eight crew members, (five Americans, two Germans and Ockels); the largest to fly in space; and was also the first in which payload activities were controlled from outside the United States: from the DLR control center in Germany. More than 75 scientific experiments were completed in the areas of physiological sciences, materials science, biology, and navigation. At mission conclusion Ockels had traveled 2.5 million miles in 110 Earth orbits, and logged over 168 hours in space.
A small planetoid is named after Wubbo Ockels by the International Astronomical Union. The planetoid orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. The object's full name is 9496 Ockels. Ockels is a member of the American Physical Society and the European Physical Society. From 1999 to 2003, he was head of ESA's Office for Educational Projects Outreach Activities.
Scientific career 
In 1992, Ockels was appointed part-time professor Aerospace Engineering (in particular, Aerospace for Sustainable Engineering and Technology) at the Delft University of Technology, and promoted to full-time professor in September 2003. In this function, he has overseen the Nuna projects. He has also proposed the development of a Superbus, a new method of high speed (250 km/hour) public transportation by road. The public transportation company Connexxion is the first company to invest in the development of this Superbus.
The LadderMill is the response to the challenge for exploiting the gigantic energy source contained in the airspace up to high altitudes of 10 km. The concept has been developed with the aim to convert wind energy at altitude in electricity on the ground in an environmental and cost effective manner.
Whilst working at the university he has assisted and advised the Nuon Solar Team, a solar racer team consisting of students, which has won the biannual World Solar Challenge 4 consecutive times from 2001 to 2007.
Personal life 
Ockels is married, has two children and two grandchildren.
He is also known as ´Wockels´, a nickname he acquired at the TU Delft University of Technology, combining his initials and last name, mistaken for the crisps Wokkels.
- Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands)
- Merit Cross 1st Class (Officer's Cross) of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- TU Delft - Connexxion steekt geld in Superbus
- High altitude wind power
- News Former Dutch astronaut improving in hospital - News from the Netherlands - Expatica
- Ruimtereis Wubbo Ockels in 1985 - website Dutch Royal Library
- Portions of this article are based on public domain text from NASA.
- Spacefacts biography of Wubbo Ockels
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Wubbo Ockels|
- (Dutch) Wubbo Ockels prize