Research into particle physics and gravitational waves in Maastricht

I work for the Faculty of  Humanities and Sciences at the University of Maastricht. A new research group is being set up within this faculty which will focus on particle physics and gravitational waves. The main researcher has access to data of the detectors LIGO (USA) and Virgo (Italy). I already wrote the following blogs regarding the two detectors:

Maastricht lies in South Limburg and South Limburg is a candidate for the successor to the current telescopes. In 2 years time the decision will be made where this new telescope will be built. The soil in South Limburg is perfect for this underground telescope. The telescope has already got a name, the Einstein Telescope.

An article on the website of Maastricht University:

So I’m really glad that my personal interests collide with my work although it’s in a supportive way (I’m no scientists unfortunately).



Landing event at EAC Cologne

I was one of the lucky ones to attend the landing event of French astronaut Thomas Pesquet at the European Astronaut Center (EAC) in Cologne on 2 June 2017. Great place to meet new and old friends.

And most importantly the landing went well.

The amazing hall of the EAC with a great model of the ISS

What a lovely miniature Soyuz with a mini Alexander Gerst:

Photo of the screen showing the landing:

The hall with all the press people:

Groups photo

Open day ESTEC

My son and I visited the Open Day at ESA’s Technical Center on 8 October. Really a must do and see experience. Numerous lectures by scientists and astronauts and a tour of the Test Center are one of the many activities on that day. I was able to talk to a couple of scientists about their missions, like GAIA (thanks Jos de Bruijne) and Galileo. A visit to neighbor Space Expo is also possible. My son loved the centrifuge the most.

There’s a fantastic program for kids at the open day but there’s also a lot to see and do for adults. The open day is usually in October so don’t miss the next one. You won’t regret it!

This is the Large European Acoustic Facility (LEAF):

The beautiful Hertz radio frequency test chamber:

Moon rover and test area in the Erasmus High Bay:

ExoMars model:

The Centrifuge at full speed used for testing:

The charred capsule of Dutch astronaut André Kuipers:

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti wore this Startrek suit on Startrek day on the ISS in 2015.

Me and the capsule of André Kuipers. He landed with this capsule on 1 July 2012. Space Expo acquired this capsule mainly by donations. It was pretty costly to buy this capsule from the Russians.

Einstein was right: gravitational waves detected

2.5 years ago I already wrote about gravitational waves and the role of the LIGO and the Virgo detectors. On the first day that the two LIGO detectors started a gravitational wave from the merger of two black holes was detected. That’s how it got its name btw: GW150914 (Gravitational Wave 14 September 2015). 

Both black holes weighed 30 times the mass of the sun. The distance to Earth was a mere 1.3 billion light-years. Enormous amounts of energy were released when they merged. This energy changed the fabric of space and time and caused ripples. 

The two LIGO detectors spotted the wave at the same time confirming it was a real discovery. Whole new research lines will appear. Such a triumph for science, the theory of relativity and astronomy.  

Here the figure from the paper: 


TedXESA: Science beyond fiction

I love attending TEDx events. It’s all about Ideas Worth Spreading. After a TEDx event you return full of stories, ideas, inspiration and energy. In the Netherlands almost every city has its own TEDx event.

So when TEDxESA was announced I had to be there. Fortunately I was selected as one of the 300 people. It was held at ESA’s technologic heart ESTEC in Noordwijk (NL). One of my favorite places. A perfect place for a TEDx event.

The list with speakers was also amazing. Astronauts, an Apollo engineer, a cook, writer, entrepeneur were among them. The complete list is here:

My definite highlight was Scott Millican. An engineer who worked on several Apollo missions in the late 60’s and early 70’s. He also trained the astronauts. In the break he talked to a small crowd and showed us the original Apollo 12 checklist with notes scribbled on them. He helped putting men on the moon.

Opening by Dutch astronaut André Kuipers:


Danish chef cook Thorsten Schmidt. He cooked an excellent meal for Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen who stayed at the ISS in September. The Space Rock with a nice surprise inside was delicious.

With Apollo Engineer Scott Millican:


Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti talking about her 200-day stay at the ISS:



You can watch all talks at:


The next TEDxESA will take place at another favorite place, the European Astronaut Center in Cologne somewhere in 2016. Follow TEDxESA on Twitter or Facebook for updates on this event.

SpaceUP Cologne

On 20 and 21 March 2015 the first SpaceUP Cologne took place. In a magnificient setting The European Astronaut Centre in Cologne

I was only able to attend the first interesting day. The most difficult part is which talk to choose.

Great to see so many friends and new people with the same interest. That´s one of the strong points of SpaceUP´s. There are many to choose from, even in Europe. See for furhter info and events


TDLR 2015

Once every 2 year the German Aerospace Day (TDLR) takes place. 2 years ago I visited it for the first time, just weeks before my Zero G flight. See for my blogpost of TDLR 2013

It took place on 20 September in Cologne, near the airport. This time I tried to see different things than last time. A visit to the Rosetta Lander Control Center of DLR was high on my wish list. You can read more about it at:

IMG_2642 IMG_2646IMG_2845

There were also scientists who explained the audience about the boldest mission of ESA and there were also maquettes of the Lander and Comet 67P.

Next we visited the training hall at EAC:

The last time we only got to see the Colombus training module and this time we saw the rest.

Hereafter we went to the airstrip where a couple of planes are on display. The waiting line for the new Airbus of Emirates was too long. Maybe next time. It’s great to wander around and see the new Zero G airplane on display.


We were just in time back at the stage to see a lot of astronauts on stage. Great talks by a couple of them like Andreas Mogensen who had just returned from a short stay at the ISS.