Thomas Pesquet has just returned to the International Space Station (ISS) for six months. He becomes its captain on October 13, a first for a French in the history of space. The 10th French astronaut to go into space is known to the public for flooding his social networks with photos, each more beautiful than the closest on our blue planet.
To mark his return to space for the Alpha mission, here are 10 photos tracing his journey from taking off Cape Canaveral in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule to arriving aboard the ISS.
First big change for Thomas Pesquet: the capsule. After traveling in the boorish and cramped Russian Soyuz capsule in 2016, he launched into SpaceX’s tech gem, the Crew Dragon, last week. The four astronauts were the size of a Fiat 500 and spent almost 24 hours in the capsule before reaching the ISS. With this capsule they will return to earth in six months at the end of their mission.
Left to right picture: Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Robert Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide.
The capsule when it arrived in Cape Canaveral a few days before landing on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The capsule must perform a double mission, bringing the astronauts to the ISS and, six months later, bringing them back to Earth in just a few minutes in a dizzying fall of nearly 400 kilometers. If SpaceX has reused its trademark, the capsule the French are bringing is disposable.
Rarely for an astronaut could the crew of the Alpha mission admire the Falcon 9 rocket, which would bring them to the ISS a few days before the flight. During his first mission to the International Space Station, Thomas Pesquet could not do the same with the Soyuz. The Russians refused to spot an astronaut before D-Day, which would bring bad luck. Far from the traditions and superstitions of Roscosmos, the Rouen native was able to immortalize this moment a few days before his place at the head of the rocket.
If the Russian traditions at Cape Canaveral are not all respected, the shooting range in Florida also has a small ritual before each flight. A few days before the launch and then in quarantine, the astronauts took the habit of relaxing on the beach next to the Kennedy Space Center. The opportunity to change your mind one last time before the big start.
While the launch of the SpaceX rocket went very well, certain privileges took advantage of the Frenchman’s mission to take (great) pictures of this historic launch for SpaceX. Elon Musk’s company was successful there on its second manned flight to the ISS. The first with astronauts who are not tied to NASA.
A few minutes before docking with the International Space Station, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule appeared in the ISS window for the last time for this photo. The earth in the background is 400 kilometers deeper.
After almost 24 hours of flight in their small capsule, the four astronauts joined their colleagues on the ISS. For the first time, the International Space Station can accommodate more than 10 people at the same time.
For his part, Thomas Pesquet was supposed to stay in the ISS for six months. He will be the third European and the first French in history to take command. A date that rewards all the work the French have done in the space industry since his first Proxima flight in late 2016.