Claudie’s intensive training for Andromède
ESA astronaut Claudie Haigneré has spent most of this year at Star City near Moscow, in training for the Andromède mission to the International Space Station. As flight engineer, she will occupy the left-hand seat of the Soyuz spacecraft.
Claudie remembers from her mission to Mir in 1996 just how demanding space travel can be, and when launch day finally arrives the hours of training, working simulators and rehearsing every aspect of the mission will finally pay off.
"I had already been through four training periods at Star City, so this time the work was much easier. I've been able to concentrate mainly on technical systems and orbital dynamics: getting into orbit, manoeuvring, the approach, docking, de-orbiting and descent," she explained.
Claudie spent a relatively brief 150 hours familiarising herself with the Russian section of the Space Station, mainly because short-duration 'taxi' missions have no maintenance assignments.
It was only in June that the Andromède team began to train together as a crew. Alongside mission commander Victor Afanassiev and second flight engineer Konstantin Kozeev, Claudie spent a week at the CNES (French space agency) facilities in Toulouse, where the crew familiarised themselves with the mission’s onboard scientific packages.
Then it was back to Star City for some more hard work. To begin with, the crew put in 15 four-hour sessions in the Soyuz simulator practising flight manoeuvres and emergency drills. They spent another 15 sessions in the docking simulator, practised manual re-entry and then moved on to mock-ups of Zarya and Zvezda, the Russian modules. In between sometimes gruelling simulator work, they received more training on the scientific payloads from French and Russian instructors.
At the end of August, the Andromède crew had a change of scene. They flew to NASA's Johnson Space Centre, in Houston, where they spent a week in mock-ups and simulators learning their way around the American section of the ISS.
"Theory is never enough," said Claudie. "For real confidence, you have to see and touch and even though we will work almost exclusively in the Russian section, we will have the run of the whole Station and have to know our way around."
The first glimpse of their Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome came a few weeks before launch.
Commenting on the relevance of the mission itself, Claudie said: "Andromède is important because it allows us to get the Station’s orbital laboratories up and running. We can test out operational procedures years before Europe’s Columbus module and the Automated Transfer Vehicle are part of the Station.
"I think that we can also show young people that Europe is a real space power, and an important partner in the Space Station project.
"Europe has teams of engineers, scientists and astronauts whose competence is recognised by all our partners, especially the Americans and the Russians.
"Because of what we’re doing up there, we hope that our young people will see that a career in science and technology can be fascinating and fulfilling. Like all young people, they will create their own future. But we can show them what that future could be."
Last update: 25 October 2001