The essential French astronaut Thomas Pesquet took off aboard SpaceX’s Dragon capsule on Friday, April 23. Direction of the International Space Station, which it will reach 24 hours later, this Saturday, April 24th, at 11:10 am. The event was followed with enthusiasm in the Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse.
A starry bracket in this time of delivery. With their eyes glued to the screens showing images from NASA, a handful of space players from Toulouse who had gathered in the Cité de l’Espace watched the launch of the rocket this Friday, April 23, 2021 Falcon 9 in Space X’s futuristic scene, it was essentially still a question from Thomas Pesquet. Because the French astronaut has had many connections with Toulouse, where he studied and where some of the scientific experiments he will carry out during his Alpha mission have been prepared.
The director of the Toulouse Space Center (CNES), Frédéric Pradeilles, came to witness the involvement of the CADMOS (Center for the Development of Zero Gravity Activities and Space Operations) teams. Alain Maillet, responsible for the experiment with edible foam, which replaces “filling” mailboxes on the ISS with cakes and gingerbread, remembers earlier launches. “At 4 km from the launch pad, my jeans were shaking, it was impressive.”
Audrey Dussutour, CNRS Research Director at CRCA (Center for Animal Identification Research), is a newcomer to the space universe. In a few months, the “blob”, a unicellular organism in which she specializes, will be in the hands of Thomas Pesquet to carry out a manipulation that is being carried out in parallel with several thousand school children on site. “It is still our experimenter who goes today! When I was little, I wanted to be an astrophysicist, I finally decided on biology, but I am always amazed by space, this unknown that attracts us all, “says the scientist.
Also read: Thomas Pesquet’s Alpha Mission was prepared in Toulouse
The four selected “blobs” were packed by Comat. The company, based in Flourens (Haute-Garonne), also designed the Telemaque experience, a gripper that allows small objects to be moved without touching them. “It’s really extraordinary that our work will soon be in the hands of Thomas Pesquet,” says Bastien Fernandez, head of design at Comat. Out of superstition, he still has to hang up the poster for the mission. “I’m waiting for him to be on the ISS.”
“A positive symbol, someone who believes in their fate”
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The mayor of Toulouse did not miss the appointment. “Thomas Pesquet is a bit from Toulouse and in these gloomy times it is nice to see a positive, consensual and optimistic event,” said Jean-Luc Moudenc.
The former astronauts Claudie Haigneré and Philippe Perrin, asked for their expertise by the many journalists present, shared their memories. “There are obviously emotions. I personally experienced two missions, including my husband (Jean-Pierre Haigneré). There is the chills of departure, the feeling of the one who stays … Today we are entering a new phase of manned flight with extraordinary personalities ”, summarizes Claudie Haigneré. “We know how difficult space flight can be. I love the new combinations and that somewhat theatrical atmosphere in black and white that Space X wants. Thomas is a great ambassador. France needs this positive symbol, someone who believes in their fate, ”concludes Philippe Perrin.
Also read: REPLAY. Departure from Thomas Pesquet to the ISS: Relive the launch of the SpaceX rocket