By Terry Baynes
On September 2, 2015, Denmark sends its first astronaut into outer space when Andreas Mogensen embarks on his debut space flight, a 10-day mission to the International Space Station. Mogensen took a few minutes between flight prep and exercises to answer five questions posed by Skagen.
What does it mean to you to be the first Dane to go into space?
When I was young and I said I wanted to be an astronaut, family and friends would say, “Well, you know, Denmark’s never had an astronaut.” So I always had to say, “Well someone’s got to be the first.” But hopefully now more kids will be able to say we have a Danish astronaut, so it’s not so far-fetched. Yet it was never part of my personal dream to be the first. I think it would be just as exciting if I were the second or the fifth or even the tenth. But obviously, there’s an incredible amount of interest and enthusiasm in Denmark for the mission, which I think is really positive.
What will you be doing on the space station?
One goal is to conduct basic science to understand the effects gravity has on chemical, physical and biological processes. I’ll also be doing several experiments where I’ll be the guinea pig, including testing out a new skin suit. Without gravity, astronauts can grow up to seven centimeters in space, which can cause back pain and also prevent them from fitting in their custom-built spacecraft seats when landing. The suit is designed to mimic the effects of gravity on our spines.
What would be your dream mission?
Once the space station project is complete, I’d like to see us venture further out. Either return to the moon or send astronauts to Mars or maybe even an asteroid. We have so many things to discover, and I’d love to participate.
Do you think there’s life out there?
The universe is so big. I’d be almost shocked if it turns out the earth is the only planet in our universe that has life. That doesn’t mean there’s intelligent life like us, but I’m talking about life in general – microbes, bacteria, simple organisms.
What are you most anxious about for the upcoming mission?
Maybe it sounds strange, but probably what I worry about most is that this 10-day mission is going to pass before I even realize it. I’m going to be incredibly busy up there. I have a packed schedule. I hope I have time to just for a few minutes savor the experience, to sit and look out the window, look down at Earth, and just enjoy being in space.
Denmark’s first astronaut, Andreas Mogensen
- Mogensen was born in Gentofte, a suburb north of Copenhagen, in 1976.
- He grew up in Thailand, Denmark, Singapore and California due to his father’s job in the shipping industry.
- He earned a Master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Imperial College London in 1999, followed by a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007.
- Mogensen was selected as a European Space Agency astronaut in May 2009.
- He was assigned to the current mission in 2013 and has since undergone extensive training at his home base in Cologne, Germany; NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA; Star City, Russia, as well as Japan and Canada.
- As part of his training, Mogensen has had to live under water, live underground and learn Russian.
- He is father to a one-year-old daughter.
- His favorite Danish food is the traditional open-faced sandwich called smørrebrød.
To deliver a replacement spacecraft to astronauts who are spending a year on the International Space Station so that they have a fresh one for landing back on earth.