The European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut will leave for the ISS from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On this page, we bring together some features about his mission.
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Attention: take-off postponed from 22 April to 23 April at 11:49 FR for weather reasons.
THOMAS PESQUET AND ALPHA
Born on 27 February 1978 (he recently celebrated his 41st birthday) in Rouen (France), Thomas Pesquet studied engineering in Toulouse before becoming an Air France pilot. He was selected as an astronaut by ESA in 2009.
His first mission, known as Proxima, took place on board the International Space Station and lasted 197 days. The ship used to get there and back was the Russian Soyuz MS-03 (take-off from Baikonur on 16 November 2016 and landing in the plains of Kazakhstan on 2 June 2017).
For his second mission, the French astronaut will return to the ISS, but this time will take off from Florida in the United States. The return will be a splashdown. The name chosen for his new stay in orbit is Alpha.
ESA video on Mission Alpha.
Below, the official patch and its meaning. It should be noted that Thomas Pesquet did not miss including the theme of sustainable development which he holds dear, by adopting the colours of the United Nations’ “Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.”
CREW DRAGON: A RE-USED CAPSULE
On his first Proxima mission, Thomas Pesquet was one of three passengers on the Russian ship Soyuz MS-03.
Since then, the United States has regained its independence as regards manned flights, thanks to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), through which NASA has entrusted the private sector with the transport of “its” astronauts (those of NASA, as well as partner agencies). It was the SpaceX firm established in 2002 by Elon Musk, which was first to obtain NASA’s certification on flight Demo-2 in 2020.
The capsule chosen for Thomas Pesquet and his colleagues is C206 Endeavour. This is the one which was used for Demo-2. Thomas Pesquet will therefore not only be the first European on board a SpaceX ship, but will also be taking part in the first re-use of a Crew Dragon for a manned flight. That is not all: the first stage of the Falcon 9 launcher will be model B1061 which was used for the Crew-1 flight in November 2020. The flight to the ISS of the French astronaut and his colleagues is entitled Crew-2.
Shane Kimbrough (American, NASA, Commander)
Megan McArthur (American, NASA, Pilot)
Akihiko Hoshide (Japanese, JAXA, Mission specialist 1)
Thomas Pesquet (French, ESA, Mission Specialist 2)
THE MISSION: SCIENCE ABOARD THE ISS
This Crew-2 flight is part of the crew rotation of the International Space Station. With the American capsules, the aim is that an ISS Expedition has seven people, three of whom are transported by a Russian Soyuz and four by a SpaceX capsule (or later by Boeing once its Starliner ship is certified).
Thus, the four from Crew-2 will join the three brought by Soyuz MS-18 (which arrived up there on 9 April) i.e. the two Russians Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov with the American Mark Vande Hei.
The main aim of these Expeditions is science. The ISS is, in fact, a laboratory in orbit where weightlessness allows us to carry out experiments which are impossible to conduct on Earth. Indeed, when we study a physical phenomenon on our planet, we observe it, in fact, subject to the gravity field. On board the station, we can therefore examine physical phenomena which are important for fundamental research, “free” from gravity and no longer “crushed.” In addition to this fundamental research aspect, the science of the ISS enables remarkable advances in biology and medicine and also allows us to understand the effects of space flights on the human body. For this latest edition, the aim is to prepare long-term missions to Mars.
Like his crewmates, Thomas Pesquet will act as a laboratory technician, responsible for carrying out many experiments designed and monitored by scientists and researchers on the ground and which last over several successive Expeditions to produce the expected results.
In addition to this programme, during Mission Alpha, Thomas Pesquet will take care of twelve experiments specifically managed by CADMOS, the Centre d’Aide pour la Développement des Activities en Micropesanteur et des Opérations Spatiales [Help Centre for Development of Microgravity Activities and Space Operations] of CNES, located at the Toulouse Space Centre. Back in 2014, Thomas Pesquet spoke to us about CADMOS (video below).
Among the twelve CADMOS experiments for Alpha, can be mentioned Dreams (study of astronauts’ sleep), Edible Foam (biodegradable or edible packaging), Blob (comparative study with school students on the ground of a Physarum polycephalum, a single-cell organism) and Pilote (a robotic control device with virtual reality). These four experiments were chosen to be presented in detail at Suivi Mission Alpha, the future exhibition of Cité de l’espace in Toulouse. When health conditions permit, this exhibition will offer the general public a unique immersive facility to monitor continuously all the highlights of Alpha and to find out about the ESA and CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) [National Centre for Space Studies] teams involved in this mission.