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Returning French superstar spaceman Thomas Pesquet's ode to Earth in pictures

© Thomas Pesquet, ESA/NASA/AFP | French astronaut Thomas Pesquet posing for a selfie outside the International Space Station on January 13, 2017.

Text by Tracy MCNICOLL

Latest update : 2017-06-02

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet returned to Earth on Friday after a six-month mission on the ISS. He travelled 400km up to study space, but his tweets highlighted his home planet. FRANCE 24 has unearthed Pesquet’s out-of-this-world images.

The Normandy-born Pesquet made the three-hour-and-20-minute return trip on Friday alongside Russian colleague Oleg Novitskiy on the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft, which delivered the pair onto the steppes of Kazakhstan at around 2:10pm GMT (4:10pm Paris time).

At 39, Pesquet is the youngest of the European Space Agency’s roster of astronauts. This space voyage was his first, after training for more than seven years.

His 196-day trip falls just three days short of the record for the longest continuous mission in space by a European.

A spacecraft engineer by training, Pesquet is also a former commercial pilot for Air France.

The son of a maths and physics professor and a schoolteacher, the polyglot Pesquet speaks French, English, German, Russian and Spanish.

He is also an accomplished sportsman, with a black belt in judo and extensive scuba and skydiving experience to round out the tableau.

(And yes, ladies, he is taken; Pesquet’s partner, Anne Mottet, lives in Rome, where she works for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.)

The Frenchman conducted 60 scientific experiments in space and completed two spacewalks to conduct maintenance on the International Space Station (ISS).

But for the general public in France and beyond – and for @thom_astro’s 561,000 Twitter followers, in particular – his trip will be remembered as a window on the earth.

Pesquet's extraordinary photographs and videos from space displayed natural and man-made phenomena all around the planet, sometimes explicitly remarking on a magnificent vista’s vulnerability to climate change.

“There are things that one understands intellectually, but which one doesn’t really get,” Pesquet told Agence France-Presse via videolink, while gently floating around in zero gravity inside the ISS. When it comes to global warming, he said, “We talk of two degrees (Celsius) or four degrees – these are numbers which sometimes exceed human understanding. But to see the planet as a whole… to see it for yourself… this allows you to truly appreciate the fragility.”

Alas, Pesquet, who lifted off when Barack Obama was still president of the United States and Donald Trump the new president-elect, also returns to earth less than 24 hours after Trump’s announcement that the US would pull out of the Paris climate agreement.

Pesquet arrived on the ISS on November 20, which was also before the election of a French president only two months his elder.

Emmanuel Macron followed Pesquet's return to earth from France’s National Centre for Space Studies in Paris on Friday afternoon. The president and the astronaut will speak briefly once Pesquet exits the capsule in Kazahkstan.

Date created : 2017-06-02

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