Astronaut appointed science minister in new Spanish cabinet

Veteran of two space missions Pedro Duque named in cabinet dominated by women

Spain’s new prime minister has appointed an astronaut as his science minister in a cabinet dominated by women.

Pedro Sánchez announced on Wednesday that Pedro Duque, a 55-year-old veteran of two space missions, would serve as minister for science, innovation and universities in his new administration.

Mr Duque, who left Earth in 1998 and again in 2003, responded to his appointment on Twitter, saying he wished his mother were still alive to see it. Beneath it, he posted a cartoon of a woman seeing her son off to work and telling him: “Remember, son, important jobs are the devil’s playground.”

It was also announced that Dolores Delgado, a prosecutor specialising in human rights and terrorism cases, would become justice minister.

Carmen Calvo, a former culture minister, will serve as deputy prime minister and equalities minister, while Nadia Calviño – currently budget director-general at the European Commission – will be economy minister.

Barcelona-born Meritxell Batet will be tasked with handling the Catalan independence crisis in her new role as territorial minister, while the former European Parliament president Josep Borrell will be the new foreign minister.

Mr Borrell, who was born in Catalonia and was a minister in the PSOE government of Felipe González, has been an outspoken critic of Catalan independence.

By lunchtime on Wednesday, Mr Sánchez had appointed nine women and three men to his cabinet. He was due to inform King Felipe of his ministerial choices at a meeting later in the day.

Despite receiving the support of the anti-austerity Podemos party in his attempt to become prime minister, Mr Sánchez has rejected its calls for a place in government, appointing his cabinet from within the ranks of his PSOE party.

Mr Sánchez (6), a former economics professor, managed to unseat his conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, through a no-confidence vote held last week in protest against corruption within Rajoy's party. – Guardian