We've all dreamed a dream in times gone by. Some of you may have longed to join Buzz Lightyear, for instance, on his way to infinity and beyond. Yet all of us in Flanders are rooted to mother earth, little more than mobile trees.
All that is, unless you are Frank De Winne, who, as my morning paper put it, schrijft geschiedenis - is writing history. Frank was one of the three astronauts who took off last week in Kazakhstan for a six-month stay on board the International Space Station and, in the latter stages, he will take over as commander.
Many Belgians remember 21 July 1969 foremost as the day when Eddy Merckx won his first Tour de France. Earlier that day, I was in the middle of a throng in a Swedish campsite peering at a TV set to gape at the Americans landing on the moon. It was a moment to inspire. Well, Frank's exploits may also have a similar effect on those who watched the launch at 12:34 on 27 May.
The leader in De Standaard certainly hoped that young people would be spurred on to take up sciences. But in these harsh times, Frank's challenge has a more general uplifting effect: Frank draagt de hoop van ons allen mee de ruimte in - Frank carries the hopes of us all into space.
Under the leader, I noticed a small article titled De Winne leest De Standaard - De Winne reads De Standaard. So what? It seemed a desperate attempt at hanging onto his coat tails, but later I came across a full-page ad showing the ISS between earth and moon with a floating dog clutching De Standaard between its jaws. Apparently, Frank vroeg of hij elke ochtend De Standaard kon lezen in het ISS - Frank asked if he could read De Standaard in the ISS every morning.
I can't imagine this was a condition for his accepting, but his wish has been granted, digitally. As the paper said, voor ons is de ruimte geen obstakel - space is no obstacle for us. It's funny to think that Frank will be able to follow the fate of the handbag snatchers arrested in Geraardbergen, as well as the Tour de France.
Though it will rather spoil the interviews he'll give in November on his return: as the paper puts it, hij zal niet verbaasd opkijken als de Vlaamse regering sinds zijn vertrek grondig gewijzigd is - he won't sit up surprised if the Flemish government has fundamentally changed since his departure. To ensure that Frank really has all the news at his fingertips, perhaps he should take out a free subscription to Flanders Today.