Exclusive: French astronaut Thomas Pesquet speaks to FRANCE 24 and RFI from space
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French astronaut Thomas Pesquet granted an exclusive interview to FRANCE 24 and RFI from the International Space Station. He told us more about his current mission, his latest spacewalk and the arrival of a new module inside the ISS. He also hailed the success of the European Space Agency's recruitment drive, but regretted a lack of female candidates.
On April 23, Thomas Pesquet blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center with three teammates for his second mission on orbit around the Earth. The astronaut is back aboard the International Space Station on a six-month mission named Alpha.
Three months after his arrival, the French astronaut spoke exclusively to FRANCE 24 and RFI about several aspects of his mission.
'Time is passing slowly' for his second stay aboard the ISS
When asked how he felt about being away from his loved ones for so long, Pesquet said: "Time can feel like it's going too slowly... strangely enough more this time than the first."
"Psychologically speaking, I think the second mission is a bit more difficult, perhaps because there's less of the joy of discovery, the excitement of saying to yourself, 'I'm in space and it might be the only time in my life'," he explained.
"The first time I really wanted to do everything... call every one of my friends, take a photo of every place on Earth I had never been... I did not know if I'd be coming back."
This time, Pesquet feels "less pressure" and "maybe a bit less of that excitement". But the astronaut still feels lucky to be able to communicate from the ISS by email, telephone and video call.
Latest spacewalk was 'dizzying'
Asked about his latest spacewalk to install new solar panels on the ISS, Pesquet explained that he and his colleagues were "very, very happy and slightly relieved" to complete the mission.
"We had to deal with heavy loads, a complicated choreography with the robotic arm, we were close to the solar panels, so it's always a bit of a stress.... It was a much more dizzying feeling than what I'd done before and it was much more difficult physically; we had trouble installing those panels."
Future of ISS could extend past 2028
Although the ISS is only supposed to be operational until 2028, a new Russian module was launched on July 21 and is currently en route for the space station.
For Pesquet, the future of the ISS "will depend on many things: what other programmes will be carried out, how quickly we'll return to the Moon, how ambitious we are..." He insisted on the fact that "2028 is the agreed end date that everyone's signed off on.... but if one agency, for example our Russian colleagues, decide to keep going, there's nothing stopping them from separating their part of the space station and to keep it flying."
Finally, Pesquet hailed the success of the European Space Agency's recruitment drive for future astronauts, but added: "My only reservation is that there could have been more girls. If 50 percent of the applicants were girls, that would be fantastic and I could retire immediately. That's not what's happened. But who knows, maybe there'll be one more French woman astronaut after Claudie [Haigneré] in the next selection, and maybe in the generation after that we'll finally get there and have gender equality."
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