Astronaut Thomas Pesquet has left the International Space Station and is en route to Earth

The second attempt will have been the right one. After a first postponement of the return trip to Earth due to bad weather conditions, the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and three of his teammates left the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, November 8, aboard a vessel supposed to land on land. off Florida overnight.

The 43-year-old astronaut, who arrived on the ISS in late April, spent some two hundred days – or about six months – in orbit on his second space mission. “Bittersweet feeling about leaving the ISS. When you think about it, it’s really a magical place, almost impossible to reach and which gives you superpowers like flying, or going around the world in 1 hour 30 minutes… It still looks a bit like a daydream… ”, shared on Twitter one who, through his abundant social media posts, has offered millions of people a glimpse of life in orbit.

Other members of the Crew-2 mission, the Japanese Akihiko Hoshide and the Americans Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, are also on board the Dragon capsule of the space company SpaceX. They take with them 240 kilos of scientific equipment and experiments.

Also read the interview: Article reserved for our subscribers Thomas Pesquet ready for a new takeoff into space

Three weeks of medical tests

After entering the atmosphere, the vessel will make a dizzying descent before landing off Florida, a priori Tuesday, November 9 around 4:30 a.m., Paris time. The landing, which promises to be intense, is a first for the French astronaut. During his previous mission, in 2016-2017, he landed in the Kazakh steppes aboard a Russian Soyuz.

It should “To be a little gentler on the water”, said Thomas Pesquet. “Then what can happen is that things move a bit. “” We are already a little seasick when we return to Earth, so there, when we return to sea, it could be even worse, but we’ll see. “, he added. Once the capsule has “Typed” the sea surface (splashdown, in English), it will float, and the crew will be recovered as quickly as possible by ships positioned nearby.

A helicopter will bring the Crew-2s back to dry land, from where they will board a plane for the NASA Space Center in Houston, Texas. Thomas Pesquet will undergo quick medical tests there before flying to Cologne, Germany, where the European Astronaut Center is located.

For three weeks, he will follow “An intense fitness program”, and will be subjected to the same tests as before and during its stay in zero gravity, in order to contribute to the collection of scientific data on the effects on the human body of a prolonged stay in orbit. His relatives will however be able to see him. “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 called the mission “Very, very intense”.

SpaceX chosen by NASA

Crew-2 is the second regular mission performed by SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company, on behalf of NASA – a recurring partnership, as the US space agency has also chosen SpaceX for the next trip to the moon. The company allowed NASA to resume flights from American soil, after the shutdown of space shuttles in 2011.

Replacements for Thomas Pesquet and his colleagues – Americans Raja Chari, Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn, as well as Germany’s Matthias Maurer, called Crew-3 – are expected to depart Earth on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. Florida time (3 h 30 Paris time, Thursday). However, this is not a certainty: their departure has already been delayed several times, in particular because of the weather.

The World with AFP

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Astronaut Thomas Pesquet has left the International Space Station and is en route to Earth