Long-duration space mission
Thomas Pesquet is the 10th French astronaut to be assigned to a spaceflight, 6 years after Léopold Eyharts mission to install Europe’s Columbus microgravity research laboratory on the ISS. Aged 36, Thomas Pesquet was selected to join ESA’s European Astronaut Corps in 2009 from a field of 8,330 candidates. He has now been assigned to a long-duration mission aboard the ISS, scheduled to return to Earth in May 2017. The scientific experiments during Thomas’s mission aboard the ISS are expected to focus on research into human physiology, biology, materials and technology development.
Shortly before his mission departs, CNES’s PHARAO ultra-precise atomic clock will be installed on the station and then connected to other atomic clocks on Earth with a view to testing Einstein’s theory of relativity and further improving time-measurement accuracy. The much-awaited results of this experiment could make satellite navigation twice more precise than it is today, paving the way for even better geolocation services. Geneviève Fioraso, Minister for Higher Education and Research, commented: “The announcement of Thomas Pesquet’s flight is a source of great pride to France and its space agency CNES. Six years after the last flight by a French astronaut, Léopold Eyharts, in 2008, Thomas will be the next astronaut to fly our flag in space. With this flight, we are soon set to send our 10th astronaut into space, putting France in 3rd place behind the United States and Russia and thus perpetuating our fine national spaceflight tradition.”
“This is just the beginning of a new phase for me”
Thomas Pesquet’s flight marks the end of a first cycle for the latest recruits to our European Astronaut Corps, who have now all been assigned to a spaceflight mission. The fact that this was possible clearly confirms ESA’s reputation among the international partners on the ISS and the reputation of its astronauts among the global astronaut community,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain. “The flight experience gained by this new class of ESA astronauts will provide a solid foundation for the agency’s member states to build on and contribute to new international crewed space exploration missions.” Thomas Pesquet is already focused on his next goal: “I am happy to have been selected for this mission, but this is just the beginning of a whole new phase for me: I still have a lot of work to do and much to learn before departing for the space station. I will have fully accomplished my dream once I actually start working aboard the International Space Station.”
Thomas Pesquet was born in 1978 in Rouen. After graduating with a degree in aerospace engineering from ENSAE, the French national aerospace school in Toulouse, he worked from 2002 to 2004 at CNES in Toulouse before becoming an airline pilot. In May 2009, after a selection process lasting nearly one year and involving more than 8,330 candidates, Thomas Pesquet joined ESA’s European Astronaut Corps along with five other new astronauts. CNES is involved at several levels in ISS operations and in the science performed aboard the station. The European ATV station resupply vehicle is operated at the Toulouse Space Centre (CST) after launch from the Guiana Space Centre by Ariane 5. Many scientific instruments are also operated from the CADMOS centre at the CST. In addition, CNES has developed several key instruments for the ISS, including DECLIC for experiments in fluid and material physics, with NASA; CARDIOMED to study astronauts’ cardiovascular system, with Russia; and the PHARAO atomic clock with ESA. Lastly, CNES also helps to monitor and train astronauts through its MEDES space clinic and Novespace parabolic flight subsidiaries.