A former test pilot and an astronaut since 1990, Léopold Eyharts is now training for his 2nd spaceflight, on the STS-122 mission of the U.S. Space Shuttle Discovery in October, which will be carrying Europe’s Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station. Eyharts will be staying on board the ISS for 2 months to oversee activation and checkout of the laboratory.
13 February 2007
Bringing Columbus to life
Selected in 1990 by CNES, French astronaut Léopold Eyharts has already flown in space, spending 19 days on the Mir space station in 1998. During this 1st mission he accomplished a full programme of life and physical sciences experiments initiated by Claudie André-Deshays on a previous flight, for which he had been her back-up.
In August 1998, Léopold Eyharts entered ESA’s Astronaut Corps and joined a class of NASA astronaut candidates in Houston with 3 fellow European astronauts.
He has now been assigned for a 2-month mission on the ISS starting in October, where he will have the delicate task of retrieving the European Columbus laboratory from the shuttle payload bay, and then docking it to the ISS and activating it. “Those will be critical moments. We will have to activate all these systems to make the module an integral part of the station.”
The shuttle crew is scheduled to perform 4 extravehicular activities (EVAs). ESA astronaut Hans Schlegel will be taking part in 3 of them. As the mission’s robotics specialist, Léopold Eyharts will play a key role in installing the laboratory. “I won’t be in charge of Columbus’ transfer, but I will operate the station’s arm on the last two EVAs.” After the departure of the shuttle, he will be charged with bringing the module to life and activating its science experiment racks.
“More at ease”
Léopold Eyharts will therefore arrive with the STS-122 mission crew and spend 2 months as part of the resident Expedition 16 crew on the ISS. “I will trade places with U.S. astronaut Daniel Tani, who will transfer his own seat to the shuttle. This will be the exact moment when I leave the STS-122 crew and join the ISS crew.”
Since his 1st spaceflight, Léopold Eyharts has been busy on a variety of space activities, including 2 years of training on the U.S. Space Shuttle and specialized training for EVAs, robotics and orbital rendezvous and docking.
“I was also Thomas Reiter’s back-up for last year's Astrolab Mission, so I have already been through most of the training once.”
Currently at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Léopold Eyharts started mission specialist training last August. Thanks to his previous flight experience on Mir, he is looking forward calmly to his 2nd flight. “Spaceflight experience is always useful, because we already know all the tiny details of life on board.”
When asked about future projects like a return to the Moon, Léopold Eyharts says it’s too early to tell what decisions will be taken. While he doubts he will be among those flying on such missions, he believes the experience gained today is a worthy investment for the future. “2007 will be a milestone for human spaceflight in Europe.
Of course, there will be our flight with Columbus, but we will also be launching the ATV cargo ship, which could still be docked to the Russian segment of the ISS when I arrive. I’m training for that too.”