ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet is ambassador of France Pavilion

Thomas Pesquet, French astronaut with the European Space Agency (ESA), has been named an official ambassador of the France Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Rescheduled, due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, Expo 2020 Dubai (October 1, 2021-March 31, 2022) is the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region.

Pesquet is joined by pastry chef Jessica Préalpato as an ambassador of the France Pavilion.

A French citizen, Préalpato was named the World’s Best Pastry Chef in 2019 by the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards.

French excellence

Erik Linquier, Commissioner General for the France Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai and President of Cofrex, said: “The support that Thomas Pesquet and Jessica Préalpato are providing to the France Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai illustrates our capacity for technological innovation, as well as the French art de vivre and all its expertise.

“These two incredible personalities complement each other in how they represent the wealth of our offering in the France Pavilion,” Linquier added.

Pesquet said: “The France Pavilion and this World Expo project are a great match for the social and environmental challenges our generation is facing.

“These issues have always been close to my heart. They are the same values that I would like to convey through my involvement with the France Pavilion,” he added.

Thomas Pesquet
Thomas Pesquet flies an A310 parabolic aircraft for space agencies to run experiments in weightlessness. Credit: France Pavilion

The ambassadors of the France Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai embody France’s vision for the six-month long global event.

It is envisaged that the ambassadors’ involvement with the France Pavilion project and the contribution of their expertise will enable France to shine on the international stage.

In May 2009 ESA selected Thomas Pesquet to be part of the agency’s astronaut corps.

He lived and worked on the International Space Station (ISS) from November 2016 to June 2017.

He also has extensive experience in scuba diving and skydiving. His other interests include travelling, playing the saxophone and reading.

1978 birth

Born in Rouen, France, on February 27, 1978, Pesquet graduated from the competitive French ‘classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles’ at the Lycée Pierre Corneille in Rouen, France, in 1998.

In 2001, he received a master’s degree from the École Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace in Toulouse, France, majoring in spacecraft design and control.

He spent his final year before graduation at the École Polytechnique de Montréal, Canada, as an exchange student on the Aeronautics and Space Master course.

Pesquet graduated from the Air France flight school in 2006, obtaining an Air Transport Pilot Licence-Instrument Rating (ATPL-IR).

He is a member of the French Aeronautics and Astronautics Association and of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

From April to September 2001, Pesquet was a trainee engineer with Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France, where he developed a satellite system design tool using concurrent engineering techniques.

From October 2001, he worked as a spacecraft dynamics engineer on remote sensing missions for GMV in Madrid, Spain.

Between 2002 and 2004, Pesquet worked at the French space agency, CNES, as a research engineer on space mission autonomy.

He also carried out studies on future European ground segment design and European space technology harmonisation.

CNES representative

From late 2002, he was a CNES representative at the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems, working on cross-support between international space agencies.

An avid private pilot in his spare time, Pesquet was selected in 2004 for Air France’s flight training programme.

He went on to become a commercial pilot for the airline, where he started flying the Airbus A320 in 2006.

Having logged more than 2,300 flight hours on commercial airliners, he became a type rating instructor on the A320 and a Crew Resource Management instructor.

Pesquet joined the ESA in September 2009 and completed basic astronau training in November 2010.

Thomas Pesquet
Artist’s rendering of the France Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai site. Credit: France Pavilion

After graduation, he worked as a Eurocom, communicating with astronauts during spaceflights from the ESA mission control centre.

He was also in charge of future projects at the European Astronaut Centre in Germany, including initiating cooperation with new ESA space partners such as China.

To be ready for a space mission, he received further technical and operational training in Europe, Russia and the United States: on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, on the US and Russian spacesuits, and on ISS systems.

He took part in exploration training courses: living and working underground on ESA’s CAVES training course in 2011, and underwater on NASA’s Seatest-2 mission.

Extensive space stay

On March 17, 2014, Pesquet was assigned to a long-duration mission on the ISS.

He was launched to the ISS on November 17, 2016 for a six-month Proxima mission, as a flight engineer for ISS Expeditions 50 and 51.

Pesquet was the 10th astronaut from France to head into space after a nine-year gap since ESA astronaut Léopold Eyharts during ISS Expedition 16.

His busy mission was the first to see all four cargo vehicles in operation at the time (HTV, Cygnus, Dragon and Progress) travelling to the ISS.

He tracked and captured two of them using the space station’s robotic arm.

During his stay in space, Pesquet took part in over 50 experiments and the six crew members set a record for hours of time spent working on science.

Other highlights of his mission included two spacewalks to maintain the ISS: one to replace batteries on an electrical channel, and one to fix a cooling leak and service the robotic arm.

Pesquet returned to Earth on Soyuz MS-03 on June 2, 2017 after spending 197 days in space.

Thomas Pesquet
(L-R) ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, Crew-2 mission specialist; NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, Crew-2 pilot;  NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, Crew-2 spacecraft commander;  and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, Crew-2 mission specialist, ahead of their April 22, 2021 launch to the space station. Credit: NASA

After debriefings and science data collection, he returned to active duty in the ESA astronaut corps.

His technical tasks included preparing for the future of human spaceflight, including the lunar gateway project.

To maintain his operational skills, Pesquet flies the Airbus A310 parabolic aircraft for space agencies to run experiments in weightlessness.

Pesquet’s second spaceflight was announced on July 28, 2020.

Mission specialist role

He will travel to the ISS as a mission specialist, on the second SpaceX Crew Dragon mission, together with JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and pilot Megan McArthur.

The mission is called Alpha, after Alpha Centauri, the closest stellar system to Earth, following the French tradition to name space missions after stars or constellations.

The mission assignment is the first time a European will fly to the ISS in the Crew Dragon, and the first time from the United States in over a decade.

He is the first ESA astronaut to fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon that will be launched on April 22, 2021, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida, United States.

Pesquet is a black belt in judo and enjoys basketball, jogging, swimming, squash, mountain biking, kite surfing, sailing, skiing and mountaineering.

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