The Moon, Mars and comets
Raphaël Liégeois, a Belgian astronaut, may be flying to the Moon. ESA, the European Space Agency, has selected him as a candidate for the Artemis mission. The plan is to reach the ISS, the International Space Station, in 2026.
The astronaut could become the third Belgian to go into space, after Frank De Winne, who became head of the European astronaut training centre in Cologne.
After a rigorous selection process, ESA – of which Belgium is one of the founding members – has selected Raphaël Liégeois as one of its five professional astronauts.
Although he is not yet at the end of his journey, there is hope that he will succeed. He still has to complete his training and pass several tests before he can fly into space.
The future mission is part of the third phase of the international Artemis Accords, signed in 2024. The goal is to explore the Moon, Mars, comets and asteroids. It was the United States and their space agency NASA that initiated this cooperation programme, aimed at civil space exploration for peaceful purposes.
Thirty-four countries have signed the accords, including Belgium. This third part of the Artemis program aims to send humans to the Moon for the first time since 1972. The new mission is scheduled for September 2026.
The Artemis Accords also provide new economic opportunities for Belgian companies, whose expertise in the space sector is recognised worldwide. It is worth noting that the aerospace industry accounts for more than 10,000 jobs in Belgium. It is a sector that addresses major challenges for the future, especially regarding climate and the environment, and so it is important for our country to position itself in it.
A brilliant scientist
Raphaël Liégeois is not only a renowned astronaut, but also a brilliant neuroscientist. He holds a PhD in neuroscience from the University of Liège and develops mathematical models of how the brain functions, including neuroimaging of neurodegenerative diseases.
After his studies in biomedical engineering, he became an engineer at the École Centrale in Paris and obtained a master's degree in fundamental physics. At this time he was already taking part in a parabolic flight campaign with CNES, the French space agency, to perform physics experiments.
To complete his studies, he then continued his research at the National University of Singapore and Stanford University, in the United States.
Armed with his skills, knowledge and open-minded attitude, Raphaël Liégeois became a researcher and teacher at the University of Geneva and EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) in Switzerland, where he teaches neuro-engineering and statistics. In addition, he conducts research on brain dynamics in health and disease, which has earned him several awards and distinctions.
In short, Raphaël Liégeois is scientifically trained, an accomplished researcher, a published author, a teacher across continents and has popularized his knowledge for a wider audience. He is a truly stellar Belgian!