The Crew Dragon capsule is due to dock with the International Space Station on Saturday morning after 23 hours of travel.
This is only the first stop on a long journey, but it is also the most spectacular. Friday morning at 11:49 am (French time), Thomas Pesquet flew from the legendary base at Cape Canaveral, Florida, to join the International Space Station. A launch operated by SpaceX and its new Crew Dragon capsule, of which this is only the third manned flight. Everything went smoothly for the French astronaut and his three traveling companions, the Americans Shane Kimbrough (commander), Megan McArthur (pilot) and the Japanese Akihiko Hoshide.
Ten minutes after takeoff, the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket landed gently in the Atlantic Ocean on the floating barge Of Course I Still Love You. This is the 80e once Elon Musk’s company manages to recover one of these thrusters, she congratulated on Twitter.
SEE ALSO – SpaceX: relive Thomas Pesquet’s takeoff for the International Space Station
At about the same time, the astronauts rediscovered the joys of weightlessness, as evidenced by the plush little penguin chosen by the crew as their “zero G” mascot, which then floated in the cockpit. . The four passengers then had another twenty-three hours of travel ahead of them before arriving at their destination (enough time to circle the Earth approximately 16 times).
The astronaut will have to launch or continue a hundred scientific experiments on behalf of the European, American and French space agencies.
Docking of the capsule is scheduled for Saturday morning at 11:10 a.m. It will take two more hours of various checks before opening the airlock, scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Seven astronauts are already on board the ISS, but four must descend on April 28, aboard another Crew Dragon capsule, already docked at the station. Astronauts always leave in the vehicle taken on the outward journey, which remains attached throughout their stay.
Thomas Pesquet will thus stay six months on board. After its first mission, baptized Proxima in 2016, it was named Alpha. These are the names of the closest stars to Earth (Proxima Centauri is the closest, and the third star in the Centaur Triple Alpha system). The astronaut will have to launch or continue a hundred scientific experiments on behalf of the European, American and French space agencies. In particular, he takes a “blob”, a curious unicellular organism that is neither a plant, nor an animal, nor a fungus, to see how it behaves in an environment without gravity. He may also have to make several scuba trips (up to four) to install new flexible scrolling solar panels. A maintenance operation planned for a long time to compensate for the loss of power of the original large solar panels.
There is no doubt that the astronaut should also take advantage of his free time to take new photos of the Earth (he had taken more than 80,000 of them during his first mission!), Which will be shared over time on the networks by his ground crews. But it is with his adventure companions that the French astronaut will share the few festive meals that were concocted for him by the starred chef Thierry Marx (crêpes Suzette, almond pie with pears, Bazas beef, mashed potato with porcini mushrooms, spelled risotto, etc.). If his last meal on earth, a roast chicken accompanied by mash, does not sell much dream, our national astronaut was also able to enjoy a last cheese platter (including Roquefort) with a baguette. So french.