Lodewijk van den Berg was one of the first two Dutch Americans to spend time in space as an astronaut. He spent 168 hours in space in April-May 1985, as part of the first operational space lab mission, named Spacelab-3. Van den Berg was chosen for the space mission because NASA decided it was a lot cheaper and quicker to train a scientist to become an astronaut than it was to train an astronaut to become a scientist.
Van den Berg had over 20 years of research and management experience in the preparation of crystalline materials, and especially in the growth of single crystals of chemical compounds, and investigations associated with the growth of the crystals. His prior experience consisted of the operation of a crystal growing facility, and the growth of the crystals in the facility, while he was in the employ of the EG and G corporation in Goletta, California.
Van den Berg was born in Sluiskil, the Netherlands, on March 24, 1932. Following his elementary and high school education, he entered the Technical University at Delft, the Netherlands, and was awarded a M. S. degree from Delft in chemical engineering, in 1961. In that same year he moved to the United States to eventually further his education. He apparently worked for a while as a chemical engineer before returning to academia for further study. He entered the University of Delaware, and received another M. S. degree, this time in applied science, in 1972. He continued his graduate studies at the University of Delaware, and in 1975 was awarded the Ph. D. degree in applied science. Around that time, van den Berg became a U. S. citizen.
In the early 1980’s, van den Berg was chosen to be a co-investigator in Spacelab-3 for the Vapor Crystal Growth System Experiment. His responsibilities centered on the crystal growth aspects of the experiment. Van den Berg had extensive experience in crystal growth and characterization, including vapor transport, solution and melt growth techniques. Because of this experience van den Berg was particularly suited to participate in the experiment, and therefore was chosen for the role. He received his space training at NASA, and became a certified astronaut.
Spacelab-3 was launched as STS-51-B Challenger from Kennedy Space Center on April 29, 1985. 168 hours later it landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, on May 6, 1985. The flight was successful, although technically somewhat troublesome. There was extensive O-ring erosion, and the accompanying blow by of dangerous gases, during the launch of the flight. On landing there were extensive crosswinds, but the first crosswind landing of the spacecraft era was successfully made.
The crystal growth experiment was not the only scientific experiment done on Spacelab-3’s flight. Other scientific disciplines represented on the same flight included life sciences, fluid mechanics, atmospheric physics, and astronomy experiments. The life sciences experiment included the effects of weightlessness on two monkeys and 24 rodents.
The crew of Spacelab-3 consisted of the commander and the pilot, plus five specialists and included Robert Overmeyer, the commander, Frederick Gregory, the pilot, Don Lind, a mission specialist, Norman Thagard, the second mission specialist, William Thornton, the third mission specialist, Lodewijk van den Berg, a load specialist, and Taylor Wang, the second load specialist.
At some point following the Spacelab-3 mission, van den Berg either retired from the EG and G Corporation or switched employers. In 2005, he was employed as chief scientist at the Constellation Technology Corporation.
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/vandenberg-l.html
Lodewijk van den Berg, Wikipedia
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