At 5:49 a.m. EST on April 23, the SpaceX spacecraft carrying four astronauts, including Frenchman Thomas Pesquet, blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a six-month Alpha mission to the International Space Station. Pesquet will serve as stationmaster of the International Space Station on the mission, not only the first time a French astronaut has held the post, but also the fourth European astronaut to hold the post in two decades.
According to the plan, Pesquet will carry out four out-of-cabin activities during the mission, including the installation of new solar panels. In addition, he will work with colleagues on hundreds of scientific experiments, 12 of which are led by France.
Pesquet, 43, a French aerospace engineer and pilot, was selected as an astronaut for the European Space Agency in 2008. This is Pesquet’s second mission to the International Space Station, where in 2016 he has been on the European Space Agency’s Next Planet mission.