Thomas Pesquet back on Earth


The French astronaut has just landed off Florida after six months on the international space station. An intense physical rehabilitation program awaits him in the coming weeks.

At around 4:35 am from Paris last night, Space X’s Dragon capsule landed off Florida. Braked by the Earth’s atmosphere and then by four huge parachutes, the Dragon capsule withstood the vertiginous descent thanks to its heat shield. It must be retrieved quickly by a ship stationed at sea nearby, and soon after the spaceship’s hatch will be opened for the astronauts to exit. They will then be brought back to dry land by helicopter.

On board, the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, 43, returned from a six-month mission in the International Space Station (ISS). He was accompanied by the Japanese Akihiko Hoshide and the Americans Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur. “As we get ready to leave, there’s a bit of a bittersweet feeling“, He said Friday at a press conference from the space station. “We might never see the ISS again, and it truly is a magical place.

Next steps: a helicopter flight to bring them back to dry land, then an airplane transport to the NASA space center in Houston (Texas). Thomas Pesquet had to undergo rapid medical tests there. “We will monitor his blood pressure which may be low because in weightlessness, the blood has circulated in a different direction“Dr Golemis told AFP. He will also undergo neurological examinations: his body having floated for six months, his balance system will have to get used to gravity again, and learn to stand up again. “Like a little kid learning to ride a bike», Explained Franck De Winne, chief of astronauts for the European Space Agency (ESA).

SEE ALSO – “I am grateful”, confides Thomas Pesquet when ordering the ISS from Anton Shkaplerov

It is therefore necessary to support the astronauts on their return to prevent any fall, especially since they have lost bone density, increasing the risk of fracture. Also on the menu: tests to detect infections, especially Covid-19. The astronauts may have vaccinated before their departure, their immune systems will be weakened after their stay in space, and will take two weeks to recover. ” Physiological reactions differ according to the astronauts, during a second mission we already know certain points on which we must be more vigilant », Guillaume Weerts explained toFigaroin a previous article.

Three weeks of rehabilitation in Cologne

Once this “checkup»(Around two hours), the Frenchman will say goodbye to his Japanese and American teammates, who will remain in Houston. It will fly to Cologne, Germany, where the European Astronaut Center is located. Three weeks of an intense physical rehabilitation program await him. “The priority is to be sure that he regains his functions and remains in good health.», Underlines the Belgian astronaut Franck de Winne, who directs the center. Thomas Pesquet will gradually rework the muscles supporting the spine, inactivated for six months.

He will gradually regain his skills. “After a few hours, or a day at most, you can walk on your own. And a few days later, run», Remembers Franck de Winne who spent six months in the ISS. The astronaut will be subjected to the same tests as before and during his mission, in order to contribute to the collection of scientific data on the effect of micro-gravity on the human body.

SEE ALSO – Follow Thomas Pesquet’s return from the International Space Station to Earth

Landing “a little softer on the water”

Friday during a conference, Thomas Pesquet revealed his apprehensions about the water landing which should “be a little gentler on the water“. “We already have a little seasickness when we get back on land, so there by going back to sea it could be even worse, but we’ll see.“, he added. On his last return to earth, the astronaut landed on the plains of Kazakhstan.

Looking back over the past six months, he described the mission as “very, very intense“. Thomas Pesquet made 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.

Asked about the moments he will remember, he quoted “the more than 200 experiences»Carried out on board, but also the meeting with the actress Youlia Peressild and the director Klim Chipenko, both Russians, who came for 12 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.

Although demanding, the fitness program that he will follow will not prevent the astronaut from seeing his loved ones. “And then I hope, first week of vacation for many months,” he said on Friday. “I even have the impression that it’s been years”.

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