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TEDxDelft - Lodewijk van den Berg - How a crystal growth scientist became an astronaut

Lodewijk van den Berg (1932) was the first Dutch-born astronaut, a fact that is often overlooked in the Netherlands because he was a naturalized American and no longer a Dutch citizen at the time of flight. Van den Berg and his colleagues designed the EG&G Vapor Crystal Growth System experiment apparatus for a Space Shuttle flight. The experiment required an in-flight operator and NASA decided that it would be easier to train a crystal growth scientist to become an astronaut, than it would be the other way around. NASA asked EG&G and Van den Berg to compile a list of eight people who would qualify to perform the science experiments in space and to become a Payload Specialist. Van den Berg and his chief, Dr. Harold A. Lamonds could only come up with seven names. Lamonds subsequently proposed adding Van den Berg to the list, joking with Van den Berg that due to his age, huge glasses and little strength, he would probably be dropped during the first selection round; but at least they would have eight names. Van den Berg agreed to be added to the list, but didn't really consider himself being selected to be a realistic scenario.The first selection round, consisted of a selection based on science qualifications in the field in question, which Van den Berg easily passed. The final four candidates were tested on physical and mental qualifications which he also passed, while two of the others failed due to possible heart issues. He was now part of the final two, and NASA always trains two astronauts, a prime and a back-up. In 1983 he started to train as an astronaut and six months before the launch he was told that he would be the prime astronaut, much to his own surprise. When he went into space he was 53 years old, making him one of the oldest rookie astronauts.On 7 November 2011 over 900 people gathered in the beautiful city of Delft for the first TEDx event in Delft, the Netherlands: TEDxDelft. We had 20 live speakers on stage talking about a wide range of subjects. A few of our speakers: Theo Jansen, Irma Boom, Huba de Graaff, Leo Kouwenhoven, Erik Meijer, Lodewijk van den Berg, Kas Oostheruis, Bauke Steenhuisen and Lowie Vermeersch. More information on http://www.TEDxDelft.nlIn the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)
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