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Science & Exploration

N° 8–2014: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet will fly to the International Space Station in 2016

17 March 2014

ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet has been assigned to a long-duration mission on the International Space Station, it was announced today. 

The assignment of the French-born astronaut was announced by ESA’s Director General Jean Jacques Dordain in the presence of the French Minister for Higher Education and Research, Geneviève Fioraso, and the President of the French space agency, CNES, Jean-Yves Le Gall.

The announcement was made in coordination with the international partners of the International Space Station.

With Thomas Pesquet’s assignment, all six ESA astronauts from the class of 2009 will have flown to the Station on missions within seven years of graduation.

The Director General noted: “Thomas’ mission assignment concludes the first phase for our newest members of the ESA astronaut corps which was to make each of them assigned to a spaceflight.

“This is a clear demonstration of the reputation of ESA among the international partners of ISS as well as of ESA astronauts among the international community of astronauts. The flight experience gained by this new class of ESA astronauts is providing a solid ground for ESA Member States to contribute to further international human exploration missions ."

Born in Rouen, France, Thomas will be the 10th Frenchman to go to space, following  Léopold Eyharts who supported the commissioning and first utilisation of ESA’s Columbus microgravity laboratory on the Space Station.

As a partner in the Station, ESA is entitled to use its resources, which include supporting missions of European astronauts.

During Thomas’ mission, an atomic clock will be installed on the Station to connect with other atomic clocks on Earth to test Einstein’s theory of relativity and allow even more accurate world timekeeping. The results could double the accuracy of satellite navigation, allowing us to pinpoint our location on Earth with even higher precision.

Thomas studied as an aerospace engineer before working as a commercial airline pilot.

ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations and former astronaut, Thomas Reiter, says: “I remember this exciting moment of mission assignment very well, and I’m very happy that Thomas Pesquet is now in this situation.

“There is an exciting road ahead for Thomas, learning all the systems of the International Space Station and the unique scientific experiments that he will conduct in space.”

Thomas comments on his assignment: “I am happy to have been selected for a mission but this is just the start of a new phase for me – there is a lot of work to do and a lot to learn before my flight.

“I will consider my dream complete when I am working on the International Space Station.”

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe's space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 20 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 18 are Member States of the EU.

ESA has Cooperation Agreements with eight other Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

ESA is also working with the EU to implement the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

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