Thomas Pesquet becomes the first Frenchman to take command of the ISS
By amk, 12/05/2022

Thomas Pesquet becomes the first Frenchman to take command of the ISS

Thomas Pesquet becomes this Monday, October 4 the first French astronaut to take command of the International Space Station (ISS), a position he will hold until the end of his mission in orbit, in November.

ByThe Voice of the North|

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The astronaut from the European Space Agency (ESA), who arrived on board the station in April, will take over from Japan's Akihiko Hoshide (JAXA) during a handover ceremony of the (symbolic) key to the space vehicle, broadcast in live on the NASA Channel Monday night. Thomas Pesquet, 43, will be responsible for the six other crew members (three Americans, two Russians and a Japanese) currently staying on the ISS.

Thomas Pesquet devient le premier Français à prendre les commandes de l’ISS

Being a captain, "it's like in a boat, there is only one master on board after God", had commented the Frenchman during a press conference in March, before starting his mission in orbit, Alpha, the second of his career. “Obviously a lot of things are decided at the control center. But if there is one voice in the crew that counts, it is that of the captain,” added Thomas Pesquet.

For emergency decisions

These tasks have nothing to do with piloting an airplane because the Space Station flies 400 km above the Earth autonomously, and orientation maneuvers are carried out from the ground, explained Franck De Winne , Head of ESA's European Astronaut Center in Cologne (Germany). The captain of the space vehicle "starts the day by entering into a conference with the flight directors on the ground (distributed in Houston, Moscow, Munich and Tsukuba in Japan) to discuss the schedule for the day, for 15 minutes", says this Belgian astronaut, who was the first European to occupy this post, in 2009. "The work of the astronauts is distributed on the ground, but it is up to the captain to ensure that the whole team can perform well assigned tasks, that everyone works to the best of their abilities, in a good atmosphere,” he explains.

And if things go wrong, the commander has full authority to make decisions urgently, without waiting for instructions from the ground. In the event of fire, depressurization or detection of a toxic atmosphere – the three emergency scenarios defined – it is up to him to ensure that the lives of the crew are saved as a priority. Two vessels, Space X's Crew Dragon capsule, and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, are permanently docked to the ISS, and can be used by astronauts to get to safety in case of danger.

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