The dates have been set for ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet’s upcoming command of the International Space Station, as ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer prepares to join him on board.
Thomas, who is currently serving in his second space mission ‘Alpha’, will take over the role of International Space Station commander from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide on 4 October, four weeks before Matthias is expected to arrive for his first mission ‘Cosmic Kiss’.
It is the first time an astronaut from France will serve as commander of the International Space Station and the first time an ESA astronaut will be in command while two European astronauts are in orbit.
Space for two
“Being in command of the International Space Station involves making sure that every crew member understands their role and contributes to the best of their abilities so they can deliver optimal performance as a team,” says Frank De Winne, ESA’s first commander of the International Space Station and head of the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.
“To have two ESA astronauts on the Space Station at the same time is special, and having one of these astronauts in a commanding role marks a real milestone in the history of European spaceflight,” he adds.
Thomas is expected to return to Earth on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft in early-to-mid November. Matthias will live and work on Station for a further six months, continuing to support essential science and research in space.
Cooperation between the two astronauts is also being celebrated in Berlin, Germany today, where Matthias will accept the prestigious Franco-German Media Prize on behalf of himself and his colleague in space.
ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher will accompany Matthias to accept the prize and describes it as “an honour that recognises ESA’s ongoing commitment to collaborative communications across all 22 ESA member states.”
The Franco-German Media Prize is awarded by a jury of representatives from French and German media to a personality or organisation that has rendered outstanding services to Franco-German and European unification.
“As a publicly-funded organisation, we owe it to the people in all our member and associate states to share what it is that their space agency is doing in orbit for the benefit of Earth and the future of exploration,” says Josef Aschbacher.
“Thomas, Matthias, and the whole ESA astronaut team are well-known around the world due to the commitment they have to communicate about their space voyages, the work they do and the passion they share for science, technology and exploration.
“I look forward to the next phase of communication as Thomas takes on the commander role and Matthias flies to space” he adds.