From 17 August to 2 September 1996, Claudie Haigneré became the first French woman in space, staying aboard the Russian station Mir for two weeks. While up there she accepted becoming the sponsor of Cité de l’espace which opened in 1997.
Born in 1957, the woman who would become the first French woman in space was 12 years old when she witnessed the first historic steps on the Moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Three years later, aged only 15 years, she achieved her baccalaureat, and started her studies of medicine, then at their conclusion began a brilliant career in this field. She turned to space travel while working on human physiology in weightlessness and in orbit with CNES, the French space agency.
THE FIRST FRENCH WOMAN IN SPACE
This avenue logically continued with the Cassiopeia mission in 1996. 25 years ago on 17 August 1996, Claudie Haigneré (then under her maiden name of André-Deshays) left the Baikonur cosmodrome aboard Soyuz TM-24 with Russians Valery Korzun and Alexander Kaleri. They were headed for the Mir station where she would carry out several scientific experiments. The fifth French-Russian manned flight was the first for a French woman.
SPONSOR OF CITE DE L’ESPACE
During this mission, she accepted the suggestion of the Mayor of Toulouse of the time, Dominique Baudis, and became the sponsor of Cité de l’espace (see the video below).
Cité de l’espace would open the following year on 27 June 1997. The first French woman in space is still our sponsor!
From 21 to 31 October 2001, Claudie Haigneré (she married the astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré in 1998) went back up to space. This time, she stayed in the International Space Station for a mission known as Andromeda.
Because of her career, she often encouraged girls to go for scientific or even space careers. For example, this was the case on 31 May 2013 at Cité de l’espace (video below).
Claudie Haigneré has remained very much involved in space, working, in particular, on the Moon Village concept of the European Space Agency (ESA) in the context of the return to the Moon and her involvement in the new selection of ESA’s astronauts. Cité de l’espace’s sponsor thus noted a significant increase in the percentage of female applicants: “In 2008, there were only 1860 French people who attempted the adventure and, overall, 15.3% of women at European level. Today, we are at 24 % for women, which is great progress.”