It's the big day for Thomas Pesquet.
The 43-year-old French astronaut began his second space mission this Friday at noon.
Space X's Crew Dragon capsule, which will take it aboard the International Space Station, took off shortly before noon (French time) from Cape Canaveral, Florida (United States).
On board, in addition to the French, the Japanese Akihiko Hoshide and the Americans Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur.
23 hour flight
The flight to the International Space Station (ISS) is scheduled to last over 23 hours.
The first 10 minutes consisted of reaching orbit.
When the rocket was no longer subjected to the earth's pull, the four members of the team saw the plush prepared for this occasion float.
To serve as an indicator, the team had chosen a penguin.
The # Crew2 are back to weightlessness after a few years living with gravity 😀.
@Thom_astro stretching his fingers with the Penguin gravity indicator floating in the background 🐧.
- Human Spaceflight (@esaspaceflight) April 23, 2021
Throughout the trip, Thomas Pesquet, seated to the right of the captain and the pilot, will play only a minimal role, as will his Japanese colleague.
Because NASA has decided that the Crew Dragon will be piloted by the two Americans on the team.
The French should therefore only intervene in the event of difficulty.
"If all goes well, we are not a priori extremely involved in the conduct of the flight," he confirmed at a press conference.
Even if he will be, like his Japanese teammate, consulted for decision-making.
According to the schedule, Thomas Pesquet should also have a sleep phase during this trip.
A stowage scheduled for Saturday
The trip to the ISS is not really direct.
The Crew Dragon will make more than ten laps around the Earth, gradually approaching the Space Station.
Docking of the spacecraft to the ISS is scheduled for this Saturday at 11:10 a.m.
Before executing the maneuver - which is automated, even if the astronauts can intervene if necessary - the capsule must be on the same line as the Station.
Thomas Pesquet and 3 astronauts take off to the International Space Station
A small welcoming ceremony will be organized for the four new arrivals, a little over two hours after docking.
The team will have two days off before getting down to business next Monday.
Life aboard the ISS
For five days, 11 astronauts will live together.
Then there will be seven of them: two Russians and an American from the Soyuz-MS-18 mission, who arrived in early April, and the four members of the Alpha mission.
They come to relieve the four Space-Crew 1 astronauts, who will therefore return to Earth after their six-month mission.
To read also Thomas Pesquet: "Life is simpler in space"
For the first time in history, a Frenchman will take control of the International Space Station.
Thomas Pesquet is expected to take on the role of commander for a month, towards the end of his mission.
His role will be "to assign a little tasks", he explained during a press conference.
"I will have to see where we can be more effective, where there is a risk of friction, where we will have to defuse the problems ...", he still assured in our columns.
Sport and experiences on the program
Thomas Pesquet and his team will spend six months in space.
The life of the French will be punctuated by scientific experiments but also by sports sessions, necessary in order not to see his muscles melt due to weightlessness.
Several themes will be addressed among the 232 planned experiments - including 40 commissioned by the European Space Agency. The Frenchman will have to study the behavior of the blob - physarum polycephalum of his real name. He will also work on human brain stem cells in order to study their aging, but also on the sleep of astronauts. Part of the experiments will take place in the European module Colombus.
Life in space itself will be an opportunity to conduct several experiments.
Thomas Pesquet could, for example, use a virtual reality headset for his sports training, or a new type of packaging for scientific equipment, part of which is edible.
The Frenchman has a chance of getting out into space, since four missions outside the station are planned, mainly to install new solar panels.
After his day's work, the astronaut will be able to call his family on the phone - and by video once a week - and have dinner with his colleagues, when their respective schedules allow it.
Maybe not around one of the dishes concocted by starred chef Thierry Marx and which made the trip.