Thomas Pesquet back on Earth on Monday

It’s time to give up the stars for Thomas Pesquet. The French astronaut and three other astronauts will leave the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday, NASA announced on Friday (November 5th). They’ll land off Florida “Not earlier” that Monday at 12:14 p.m. GMT (1:14 p.m. in Paris), after spending more than six months in space.

“As we prepare to leave, there is a bit of a bittersweet feeling”Thomas Pesquet said 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 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.

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 April 24. During his previous mission, Proxima, in 2016-2017, he landed in the Kazakh steppes. The landing will therefore be a first for him. It should “To be a little gentler 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 here when we come back to sea it may 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.

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Toilet breakdown

Crew-2 is the second regular mission carried out by Elon Musk’s company on behalf of NASA. The takeoff of the third is finally scheduled for Wednesday at 9:03 pm Florida time (3:03 am in Paris, Thursday), aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral. Crew-3 astronauts Americans Raja Chari, Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn, as well as German Matthias Maurer, have been in quarantine at the Kennedy Space Center for days.

The space agency envisages that the capsule of Crew-2 makes, before beginning its descent towards the Earth, the turn 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 manage it”, modestly commented Megan McArthur Friday.

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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.

A “very, very intense” mission

He will follow there “For three weeks 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 effect of a long stay in orbit on 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 called the mission “Very, very intense”.

Thomas Pesquet carried out 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. He also became, on October 4, the first Frenchman to take command of the International Space Station.

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Asked about the moments he will remember, he cited “The more than 200 experiences” carried out on board, but also the meeting with the actress, Yulia Peressild, and the director, Klim Chipenko, Russians who came for twelve 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. “

The World with AFP

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Thomas Pesquet back on Earth on Monday