Spanish astronaut Pedro Duque discussed his experiences during two trips into space at an event marking the 50th anniversary of the European Southern Observatory, or ESO, in Chile.

"The best thing about space is the combination of experiences, looking at the Earth, being weightless, using cutting-edge technology ... and the worst part, let's say, are the years of training," the astronaut told Efe.

The 50-year-old Duque's last mission into space was in 2003, when he flew to the International Space Station, or ISS.

"I'm on the list, I pass all the required tests each year, so if I stay healthy for the next six years, I could go" back to space, Duque, who is head of the European Space Agency's Flight Operations Office, said.

The astronaut said he watched the first moon landing as a 6-year-old on July 20, 1969, with his nose pressed to the screen of his family's television.

"I was 6 when the landing on the moon took place and back then we all wanted to be astronauts," Duque said.

"Spain had no technology, no funds, no science, no nothing, at the time, so it did not make much sense," the astronaut said.

"The country's growth" and engineering training, however, made it possible for Duque to start making his dream a reality in 1990.

The astronaut said he remained optimistic about the future of the European space program despite the economic problems on the continent.

"For now, except for some countries, like Spain, (the countries) have maintained or even increased their contributions so that ESA can continue to have the same funding," Duque said. EFE