ESA astronaut and ISS Commander Frank De Winne of Belgium paid a visit to the BMW Group in Munich along with his two colleagues Robert Thirsk (Canada) and Roman Romanenko (Russia). The astronauts, normally accustomed to navigating the cosmos in a spaceship, yesterday had an opportunity to learn about the design, innovations and sheer driving pleasure of BMW cars.
At BMW Welt, the tech-savvy ISS crew were particularly intrigued by the exhibition on mobility issues of the future and fuel-saving measures in the current BMW range. "As an astronaut Iím always interested in cutting-edge and future-proof solutions that get me where I want to go both personally and professionally. I can see the same zeal here as well," said De Winne.
The subsequent driving experience lined up for the astronauts revolved around safety, control and driving fun. To start with the BMW Driver Training instructors took them through various exercises to prepare them for the driving experience with models from BMW M GmbH. The astronauts were able to apply their newly acquired knowledge directly to a selection of models in the product range, from the M3 and M6 all the way to the X5 and X6 M. At the end of the training session Frank De Winne was positively surprised: "It was fascinating to see with what precision a car responds when you drive it properly. Like an aircraft, it immediately obeys the pilotís every command. For me it means that if I control my car properly, Iím safer out on the road."
Frank De Winne embarked on his debut flight to the International Space Station in 2002, making him the second Belgian astronaut in space. In October 2009 De Winne was appointed Commander of the ISS for the duration of Expedition 21, the first European to occupy this post. On 1 December 2009, De Winne successfully returned to Earth. Two new European ESA missions to the ISS are planned for 2010.
Robert Thirsk was assigned to the ISS Expedition 20 as on-board engineer for the International Space Station. On 27 May 2009 he took off for the ISS on the Soyuz TMA-15, the first Canadian ever to fly in a Soyuz spacecraft. He eventually touched down in the Soyuz TMA-15 in Kazakhstan on 1 December 2009, having spent a total of more than 185 days aboard the ISS.
Roman Romanenko is a Russian cosmonaut. He was Commander of the Soyuz TMA-15 spaceship and on-board engineer in the International Space Station (ISS). He set out on 27 May 2009 with Frank De Winne and Robert Thirsk also on board. The docking of the Soyuz TMA-15 on the ISS marked the start of the ISS Expedition 20. On 1 December 2009 Romanenko also returned to Earth along with his two colleagues.