French astronaut Thomas Pesquet has returned to his habits on the International Space Station, which has become somewhat of his “second home” and where he expects to experience many small and “great moments”, notably with spacewalks.
Floating in weightlessness, while playing with an inflatable world map, the astronaut took 20 minutes of questions and answers with the press, from a module cluttered with cables and wires of the Station, where he has already spent more than six months in 2016-2017. “It’s a bit like my second home, I found friends, I found my habits,” said Thomas Pesquet, 43, explaining that nothing had really changed in the machine, located in orbit. some 400 km from Earth.
The thrills of take-off
The real novelty was to join her aboard the Crew Dragon capsule, of the private American company SpaceX, of which it was only the third manned mission to the ISS. The astronaut found it “super comfortable on take-off,” he explained to journalists gathered in the Paris premises of the National Center for Space Studies (CNES). But make no mistake, “if you like fairground rides and thrills, a rocket take off is the best we can do “. This explains the visible moment of hilarity that seized the four astronauts when they left Earth last Saturday: “It was really a great, great moment, we were all laughing in the capsule, being serious, because the sensations are phenomenal. “.
The 26 hours of the trip to the ISS were not easy, the control center having reserved a surprise for the astronauts, with an emergency exercise. “We had taken out all our things to spend a quiet night, clothes and food, and there, we had a very calm message telling us: in 20 minutes maximum, you should be in your seats in a diving suit, harnessed, strapped, helmets closed and everything stowed away in the cabin, ”says the astronaut. “What usually takes us fifty minutes, we did it in 19:30”.
Which perhaps explains that in response to a question about the Crew Dragon capsule, the astronaut suggested that the care given to the aesthetics of the vehicle, like “a modern car, with flat touch screens”, is be done at the expense of its practicality. “It’s made to be pretty … But we are more used to ugly and functional things, so we had to get used to it a little bit”, he said, with the smile. The astronaut was used to Russian Soyuz vessels, which were more rustic and very reliable.
The eagerly awaited extra-vehicular outings
Thomas Pesquet expects to spend “great moments with extra-vehicular outings”, and in particular the installation of new solar panels “about fifty meters from the exit airlock, above the void”. He will above all work on numerous experiments, 232 to be exact, in the company of six other astronauts, aboard this vast laboratory in weightlessness.
“The purpose of being here is research,” recalls the astronaut. Whether it is to study anti-microbial coatings that can find an application on Earth to avoid contamination of surfaces, or the evolution of mini-brains, stem cells “which do not behave like on the ground”. This last experiment, supervised by the Cadmos, a division of the Cnes, has its favor: “I can not wait to play a little mad scientist”.
The stay in space is also “a lot of small moments”, he said, with in the background the celebration by the rest of the crew of the birthday of the American Victor Glover, in breakfast time. “We installed little balloons before he got up,” he explains, emphasizing the interest of this “community life, with the feeling of being on a mission”.
A life where you also have to put up with a certain promiscuity, in this closed place “where there are people almost everywhere”. With the overlap of arriving and departing crews, there are currently eleven, and “we only have six berths”. A seventh should arrive with an upcoming mission. Even more expected, a third toilet for the station, explains the astronaut, for whom the only real drawback of the ISS is to have only “a system of toilets on the Russian side and an American side”, which causes sometimes a queue.
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