ESA title
Science & Exploration

Ground Support

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ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Volare

Brigitte Godard, Flight surgeon

Brigitte was responsible for Luca’s health before, during and after flight.

Brigitte Godard
Brigitte Godard

“Before flight, a flight surgeon does everything to ensure the astronaut is ready to fly. In space, we try to make the mission as comfortable as possible. Back on Earth, our job is to get an astronaut back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

Brigitte was assigned to Luca’s mission two years before his launch. Since then, she monitored his health closely and was present at every medical exam.

“It is one thing to know that an astronaut is in good health, it is another thing to prove it to our international partners,” says Brigitte.

When Brigitte isn’t flying around the world following Luca in his training schedule she checks all papers and experiments on the International Space Station ­– just to be sure that no suggested change to Luca’s environment could cause problems for the astronaut’s health.

Roland Luettgens, Mission Director for Expedition 35/36


A mission director’s task is to allow an astronaut to do his job properly. Roland explains: “I am responsible on the ESA side for the preparation and readiness of the increment and the mission. When the mission starts, we execute it. At the Columbus Control Centre we have the responsibility for the planning and execution of Luca’s activities.“

During Volare, Luca had many hours planned using the Station’s robotic arms as well as receiving spacecraft that dock automatically. Every time a vehicle visits the Station, it means more cargo needs to be unloaded and stored and more activity for the astronauts and mission support on ground.

“All this requires a lot of planning and cooperation with our international partners and, of course, in spaceflight launch dates can change at any moment. But we depend on these vehicles to do our experiments.”

The mission directors for Volare have their work cut out. It will be an extremely busy mission.

Jessica Grenouilleau, Mission Director for Expedition 37/38

Columbus Control Centre
Columbus Control Centre

Jessica will take over as mission director from Roland as Luca goes from Expedition 36 to 37. Support is provided day and night throughout the mission.

“Our teams do a fantastic job, however, we also need to be quick and ready to take decisions, sometimes in a matter of a few minutes. We provide total support so that Luca can always count on us.”

Jessica explains her role: “As mission directors, we are a sort of moderator or conductor. Together with our teams, we build plans, prepare everything that is needed, and execute them. That is the kick in my job, when things get done as planned.”

However, changing plans are part of spaceflight, with such complex operations involving countries from all over the world. Luca and the ground teams supporting him need to focus on their tasks on a day by day basis. The mission directors are here to make that easier and must literally embrace change: “To properly manage evolving situations, one needs to be prepared. My motto is you should not plan to be ready, you have to be ready to plan.”

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