Thomas Pesquet is safely back on Earth! Successful mission for SpaceX

Thomas Pesquet is on Earth. Six months after leaving for the International Space Station, the French astronaut returned. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule landed on the night of November 8-9, 2021.

Thomas Pesquet can once again step on the ground. The French astronaut, who left Earth on April 23 for a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS), returned on the night of November 8-9. He was aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, alongside three other astronauts: Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur and Akihiko Hoshide.

For SpaceX, it is a success: the American company demonstrates for the third time its expertise in the area of ​​crew transport. She had first transported and repatriated two astronauts for a test flight to qualify her for this task. With a successful first mission, she completed the first rotation for an operational team, which included four people.

These first two missions took place from May to August 2020 for Demo-2 (the test flight) and from November 2020 to May 2021 for Crew-1 (the first crew to enter the ISS occupancy schedule). As for the Crew-2 mission in which Thomas Pesquet participated (and which is called the Alpha mission to designate its French component), it ran from April to November 2021.

Thomas Pesquet sets some records in space

Thomas Pesquet’s return to Earth went as planned, except we had to run out of toilets in the capsule (but astronauts saw others and that’s not really the most serious problem they might face). The journey itself was relatively long: it took more than 8.5 hours for the capsule to return, as the return flight is not in a straight line.

With this second stay in space, Thomas Pesquet became the Frenchman who spent the most time out of the atmosphere, in accumulated time (with the two trips he has already made) and during a single mission. He has passed the 395-day mark, putting him far ahead of number two on the podium, Jean-Pierre Haigneré, who is 209 days old.

Thomas Pesquet also set a new European benchmark for extravehicular walks, ie in a spacesuit around the ISS. The Frenchman performed no less than six out-of-season maneuvers during these two stays (three at a time), which brings him to a total duration of almost 40 hours. We are way ahead of Lucas Parmitano and his 33 hours.

Thomas Pesquet is attached by the feet to a robotic arm. You have to have confidence and not tell yourself it’s pretty much the only bond he has with the ISS… // Source: Nasa

These departures from the ISS were some of the highlights of these six months: they were also aimed at installing new solar panels for the Space Station, because the devices used so far, which are original, are aged. This work is used to support the station’s energy supply, a priori until its end of life, which may occur until the end of the 2020s.

Another highlight of Thomas Pesquet’s trip was when he found himself in the shoes of the ISS commander (a small handover ceremony took place at the time). It was a first for both Thomas Pesquet and France, as this role was long held by Russians and Americans, before being entrusted to other nationalities.

If SpaceX can congratulate itself on the success of the safe return of the Crew-2 crew, the company can hardly extend its praise. In fact, another manned mission is due to take off soon after: Crew-3. It will take four astronauts, three Americans and one German, Matthias Maurer. Departure for this mission is scheduled for November 10th. Arrival on board the ISS will take place the next day.

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