From 17 August to 2 September 1996, Claudie Haigneré became the first French woman in space during a 2-week mission on board the Russian space station, Mir. From space, she agreed to be the patron of the Cité de l’Espace which opened in 1997.
Born in 1957, the girl who would became the first French woman in space was aged just 12 when she watched the historic first steps on the Moon taken by Armstrong and Aldrin. Three years later, when she was 15 years’ old, she obtained her baccalaureat then began studying medicine, before embarking on a brilliant career in this field. She then turned her attention to astronautics, working on human physiology in weightlessness and on orbit at the French space agency, CNES.
Claudie Haigneré, patron of the Cité de l’Espace
This career path continued with the Cassiopée mission in 1996. 20 years ago, on 17 August 1996, Claudie Haigneré (then André-Deshays) left the Baikonur cosmodrome on board Soyuz TM-24 with the Russians Valeri Korzun and Alexander Kaleri. She was heading for the Mir space station where she would conduct several scientific experiments. This fifth Russian-French manned flight was the first for a French woman.
During this mission, she accepted the proposal from the Mayor of Toulouse at the time, Dominique Baudis, and became patron of the Cité de l’Espace (see video below).
The Cité de l’Espace opened the following year on 27 June 1997. The first French woman in space is still its patron!
From 21 to 31 October 2001, Claudie Haigneré (she married the astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré in 1998) returned to space. This time she stayed on the International Space Station for a mission called Andromède.
Due to her career, she has often inspired young girls to work in science and of course, the space industry. This was the case for example on 31 May 2013 at the Cité de l’Espace (see video below).
Today, Claudie Haigneré is an advisor to the Director General of the European Space Agency, Jan Woerner. She is also involved in organising the 30th World Congress of Astronauts which will be held from 16 to 20 October 2017 at the Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse. Claudie Haigneré talks about this subject in the video below at 04:30.