For Pesquet, we have to “go further” in space exploration.

For Pesquet, we have to "go further" in space exploration.

“It’s time to move on”: six months after his return to Earth, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet is looking to the future of European space exploration, marked by missions to the moon in 2025-2030. “In low orbit around the Earth – about 500 km – we are constantly present to people on the International Space Station for 20 years,” said the ISP, a 44-year-old astronaut. conference at the French Embassy in Italy.

“Today is the time for us, Europe’s institutional astronauts, our international partners, to go further,” he said, hoping that “the private sector will rush after us.” “We are cleaning up this area to benefit European society,” he says.

An ambitious NASA program

In November, Thomas Pesquet was able to take part in lunar missions under NASA’s ambitious program, Artemis, Apollo’s sister twin, in connection with the historic mission, from his second space mission, during which he became the first Frenchman to run the ISS. of 1969 – uniting Canada, Japan and Europe.

“We seem to be in a good configuration: we have a launcher, a capsule, a target, everything fits in place,” he notes. The first unmanned test flight is scheduled for summer 2022, before the first manned flight in mid-2024, without landing on the moon to “prepare trajectories.”

“From there flights every year, for now in the calendar 2025-2026-2027, with flights to the moon. There, Europeans could have a say in this, “continues the astronaut, who recalls the technical difficulty of spaceflight,” a series of small miracles. “

“Great solidarity”

As a direct result of the war in Ukraine, the Russian-European mission ExoMars was suspended by the European Space Agency (ESA) in March. He secured the launch of the rover heading for the Red Planet using the Russian Soyuz launch vehicle. Asked about the consequences of the conflict during his conference, Thomas Pesquet insists on the “collective intelligence” and “great solidarity” of astronauts aboard the ISS. “Not many things have changed within the crews (…) We have friends abroad, we know each other, we are on the same ship. »

However, “at the political level, it is more complicated between agencies,” he said. “Today we see that we are following the agreements made a few years ago, but we are not making decisions in the future. In the spirit of the desire for greater independence, European astronauts in February called for a European manned flight program, “a topic that is very important today,” Pesquet acknowledges. “We realized that relying on others to access the universe was not always easy (…) We think about it a lot today.”

Among his many activities, the astronaut is associated with the selection of another class of European astronauts. More than 22,000 candidates applied for just four to six full places in the next promotion, which will be unveiled in November. “Being on the other side makes me think about how lucky I was; when you see what can be eliminating in such a selection, it is still unbelievable to get to the goal, ”he argues, clarifying that the criteria have not really changed since his selection in 2009.

“It is very exciting to see all the talents in Europe, all those people who come from Spain, Italy, Germany, France, the Nordic countries, from anywhere with a very rich background,” he rejoices. “They all have one thing in common, which is a passion for space and a European identity, they all speak several European languages, it’s the Erasmus generation, they have it in their bodies, so it gives me confidence in the future. »

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