the essential The 43 year-old French astronaut completes the second mission of his career in orbit, “Alpha”. He arrived aboard the ISS with his teammates on 24 April.
The crew of Crew-2, made up of Thomas Pesquet, the Japanese Akihiko Hoshide and the Americans Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, will thus return to Earth before the arrival on board the ISS of the four astronauts of Crew-3, including the take-off was delayed several times, in particular because of the weather.
“As we prepare to leave, there is a bit of a bittersweet feeling,” Thomas Pesquet said earlier Friday at a press conference from the space station. “We might never come back to see the ISS, and it truly is a magical place.”
The 43 year-old French astronaut completes the second mission of his career in orbit, “Alpha”. He arrived aboard the ISS with his teammates on 24 April.
During his previous “Proxima” mission, in 2016 – 2017, he landed in the Kazakh steppes. The landing will therefore be a first for him.
It should “be a little smoother on the water,” said Thomas Pesquet. “Then what can happen is that things move a bit.”
“We already have a little seasickness when we get back on land, so when we come back to sea it could be even worse, but we’ll see,” he added.
After its vertiginous descent, the Dragon capsule will be recovered from one of the possible arrival points, off Florida, by a SpaceX boat.
Crew-2 is the second regular mission carried out by Elon Musk’s company on behalf of Nasa.
The take-off of the third is finally scheduled for Wednesday at 21 h 03 time of Florida (2h 03 GMT Thursday), aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral.
Crew-3 astronauts Americans Raja Chari, Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn, along with German Matthias Maurer, have been in quarantine at the Kennedy Space Center for days.
A breakdown of toilets
The space agency envisages that the Crew-2 capsule makes, before beginning its descent towards the Earth, the tour of the space station, in order to photograph the outside.
An unexpected challenge then awaits the four astronauts on their journey: they will not be able to use the toilets of the Dragon capsule, a leak problem having been discovered.
“It is of course not optimal, but we are prepared to deal with it,” Megan McArthur modestly commented on Friday.
After his return to Earth and some tests to check his state of health in Florida, Thomas Pesquet will very quickly be transported to Cologne, Germany, where the European Astronaut Center is located.
He will follow there “for three weeks an intense program of fitness”, and will be subjected to the same tests as before and during his stay in weightlessness, in order to contribute to the collection of scientific data on the effect of a long stay. orbiting the human body.
“And then I hope, first week of vacation for many months,” he said on Friday. “I even feel like it’s been years.”
Looking back over the past six months, he described the mission as “very, very intense”.
Thomas Pesquet made four extra-vehicular outings (“EVA”) outside the station, in particular to install new solar panels. This brings him to six sorties in total, after the two made during his first Proxima mission.
Asked about the moments he will remember, he cited “the most 200 experiences” carried out on board, but also the meeting with the actress, Youlia Peressild, and the director , Klim Chipenko, Russians who came for 12 days to shoot the first film in history in space.
“We didn’t really know how to position ourselves at the start,” he said. “But we got to talk to them and it ended up going really well. We can’t wait to see the result.”