French astronaut Thomas Pesquet will join the International Space Station (ISS) for a second time in spring 2021 as commander. This is the first time that a French astronaut will lead a space mission.
Former airline pilot, Thomas Pesquet (43) became on November 17, 2016 the tenth French to go into space. During his stay, the astronaut carried out a hundred experiments on behalf of ESA, CNES and NASA. He also has two six-hour spacewalks (EVAs) to his credit. But that was just the start.
Since his return to Earth, Thomas Pesquet had never hidden his desire to join the ISS again. Moreover, we know that the Moon or the planet Mars also titillates him.
A second mission as commander for Thomas Pesquet
His wish will soon be granted. This return, initially scheduled for 2024, is brought forward to April 22. And surprise: he has just been promoted to commander! The announcement was made on Tuesday at a press conference.
This is a first for a Frenchman and only the third time that a European astronaut has led such an operation. “I am very honored and happy to be offered the command of the Station for my second mission.“, Reacted the French astronaut on Twitter.
Concretely, the French will have to “take care of day-to-day management, facilitate the work of the crew, and in an emergency, make decisions – even if everyone is fully trained and knows what to do“, Detailed ESA during its press conference.
Note that this new trip will be on board a SpaceX capsule, as part of the Crew-2 mission. During his first stay, the French had integrated a Russian Soyuz capsule. Thomas Pesquet will then become the first ESA astronaut to fly aboard one of these spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida, United States.
For this mission called Alpha, named after the star Alpha Centauri, closest to the Sun, he will accompany NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, as well as JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide .
Upon their arrival, they will replace the current crew of the Crew-1 mission, already flown by SpaceX last November. This includes Commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor J. Glover, as well as mission specialists Soichi Noguchi and Shannon Walker.