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Research and public service in the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere of the Earth and other planets, and of outer space.

On March 24, 1992, Dirk Frimout became the first Belgian in space on the Atlas-1 Space Shuttle mission. Even though science is an effort spanning over millennia of history and all continents of the world - not a single scientific idea was born in isolation – for the sake of celebrating the 30th anniversary of the event, we would like to talk specifically about the role that the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) has played in this Belgian leap into space. Firstly, because Dirk Frimout spent the first 13 years of his career at this Institute; and secondly, because three of the instruments he was in charge of during this adventure in Earth’s orbit were largely developed at BIRA-IASB.

Within the project ‘A Touch of Space Weather', BIRA-IASB is organising a jingle contest. The contest specifically addresses blind and visually impaired students from secondary schools, but any student with a strong closeness to this group, that can motivate this, is equally welcome to take part. We hope to inspire pupils to challenge their auditory, artistic and musical talents, and apply it for scientific purposes; and we hope this theme may stimulate them to further discover the fascinating world of space weather!

The Management Committee of Belspo (Belgian Science Policy Office), composed of ten federal scientific institutions (RMI, BIRA-IASB, ROB, KBR, State Archives, RBINS, RMCA, RIAP, RMAH and RMFAB) Belnet and the central administration, joins the numerous expressions of support from the Belgian and international scientific community regarding the armed conflict in Ukraine.

On Monday February 28, 2022, a new experiment called PASTA will be installed on the International Space Station by ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, under the guidance of the Belgian control centre B.USOC. The B.USOC operators will then control PASTA from the ground, in order to collect data on the formation of emulsions in weightlessness for transfer to the experiment’s science team. This will enable the development of better theoretical modelling of emulsions, with a wide array of applications in the food, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries.

Each year, we celebrate Women in Science Day on February 11. But why? What are we trying to achieve exactly? And how are we working towards it? At the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, we have recently started to work on a Gender Equality Plan (GEP), to lay out specific goals and ways to reach them. It is meant as a roadmap towards better working conditions for women and a more gender inclusive, and thus more innovative and productive environment. In future stages, the aim is to extend that road and tackle all kinds of diversity, be it gender or other.

Every now and then comes a day when you read a news title and have to re-read it twice to be certain you haven’t misread something. A rocket colliding with the Moon? Another science fiction plot entering the realm of reality, but it does not sound very cool this time. At least not to those involved in scientific space research and activities, or to those in love with the night sky and solar system as it was before the age of “space pollution”. Two of our senior scientists, involved in ESA Science and Earth Observation missions, Didier Fussen and Johan De Keyser share what the news looks like from their experienced perspectives.