ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet will serve as commander of the International Space Station towards the end of his second mission, called Alpha, currently slated to begin on 22 April this year. The announcement was made during today’s press briefing.
Thomas will be the fourth European to hold the post of commander, after ESA astronauts Frank De Winne, Alexander Gerst and Luca Parmitano. During the briefing, Thomas remarked how three back-to-back European commanders underscores the growing role of Europe in space exploration and is a testament to the hard work of ESA colleagues.
‘I am unbelievably humbled and honoured’, said Thomas.
Thomas will be the first ESA astronaut to fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon launching on a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida, USA. He will accompany NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.
During his six-month Alpha mission, Thomas will continue the programme of research that often spans multiple missions and a wide range of scientific disciplines spanning materials science and radiation to educational activities.
The end of Thomas six-month stay on board will overlap with the start of German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer’s first mission to the Space Station, called Comic Kiss, which will be followed by Samantha Cristoforetti’s second tenure in space, marking three back-to-back missions for ESA astronauts.
Source: European Space Agency