ESA astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Saturday 20 February at 07:18 Moscow time (05:18 Central European Time) headed for a six-month stay on board the Russian space station Mir. While in orbit, Haigneré will carry out a programme of scientific research designed to take advantage of the long duration of the flight and will make at least one spacewalk outside Mir.
The research programme for this fifth French-Russian mission, named Perseus, was defined and coordinated by the French space agency CNES. Most of the experiments that Haigneré will perform on behalf of European scientists, notably French and German will build on work done by other European astronauts on earlier missions on board Mir. Two of the experiments were developed by ESA: the Bone Stiffness Measurement Device (BSMD) to study bone changes in orbit, and the Mirsupio, a special multipurpose bag designed by ESA's European Astronaut Centre (EAC) for operational use by astronauts during their missions.
Haigneré will perform a spacewalk in April, going outside Mir for about six hours to collect experiment samples placed on the exterior of the space station several months ago to expose them to the space environment. He will also install new experiments. Two of these are part of a study on the origin of life and the universe, the other will be looking at how new technologies that could be used for example on future satellite electronic components react in the space environment.
Haigneré's other responsibility during the mission will be as onboard engineer, to ensure the smooth operation of several Mir systems.
Haigneré, a former CNES astronaut, joined the European astronaut corps in June 1998 and has since been detached back to CNES for this mission. He has already been to Mir, on the 21-day French-Russian Altaïr mission in 1993. He also trained as Leopold Eyharts' backup for the French-Russian Pegase mission flown in 1996.
The three-member crew, which includes Russian commander Viktor Afanassiev and Slovak Ivan Bella, will be launched from Baikonur onboard a Russian Soyuz vehicle. They will dock with Mir two days later, on 22 February, at 08:51 Moscow time (06:51 CET). There they will join two Russian cosmonauts who have been onboard since August 1998. One of these, Gennadi Padalka, will return to Earth eight days later with Haigneré's crewmate, Ivan Bella.
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For more information, please see the following web pages:
- Jean-Pierre Haigneré:
- Perseus mission: http://www.cnes.fr