In forty years, only ten Frenchmen have traveled to the square

Astronaut, taikonaut, cosmonaut or astronaut? These four words refer to an entire person going out into space. An astronaut is an American, a Chinese taikonaut, a Russian cosmonaut and a European astronaut. The French who have visited space therefore belong to this last category. They are the only ten who have made this trip since the first of them flew just forty years ago, on June 24, 1982.

► Jean-Loup Chretien, the first

Former Brigadier General of the Air Force and fighter pilot, Jean-Loup Chrétien became in 1982 the first Frenchman and the first Western European in space. He participated in the French-Soviet PVH mission, a trip to the Salyut 7 space station.

Jean-Loup Chrétien, who is also the first, apart from Americans and Russians who have made an extra vehicle exit, completed three flights in space for a total of 43 days, 11 hours and 19 minutes. His journey, in the midst of the Cold War, paved the way for intense scientific cooperation between the French and the Soviets.

► Patrick Baudry, the undergraduate

Patrick Baudry serves as Jean-Loup Chrétien on the PVH mission. He becomes the second French astronaut to take part in an American mission, which also takes a member of the Saudi royal family.

He remains one of the few who has the double experience of American training and Soviet training, as he told in a report, Live from space.

► Michel Tognini, French-American astronaut

Michel Tognini flew from Baikonur in July 1992 to the Mir space station. He then participated in the US mission STS-93, which put the Chandra space telescope into orbit. After becoming head of the European Astronaut Center, he would recruit Thomas Pesquet years later.

► Jean-Pierre Haigneré, from the room to the cinema

Jean-Pierre Haigneré participated in the Altaïr Mission in 1993, which left Baikonur to join Mir. After being there for the second time in 1999, he became the one who spent the most time, apart from Russian cosmonauts, at the station.

In 2009, he appeared in a film by Riad Sattouf, The beautiful children. Jean-Pierre Haigneré remains the second Frenchman to have spent the most time in space with 209 days, 12 hours and 25 minutes in total.

► Jean-François Clervoy, an engineer in space

An engineer, Jean-François Clervoy, was selected as an astronaut in 1985 by France. In November 1994, he participated in the American Atlas-3 mission, which studied the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. In 1997, he went to the Mir station and then traveled again in 1999 on a mission, where he repaired the Hubble Space Telescope in 1999.

► Jean-Jacques Favier, physicist astronaut

After obtaining a doctorate in physics and metallurgy, Jean-Jacques Favier made a unique flight of 16 days and 21 hours during the US mission STS-78, aboard the space shuttle Columbia.

► Claudie Haigneré, the first woman in space

Claudie Haigneré is a scientist, physician and doctor of neuroscience. She was also the Minister Delegate for Research and the Delegate for European Affairs in Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s Governments. Its first flight, which took place in 1996, brought it to the Russian Mir train station as part of the Franco-Russian Cassiopée mission.

She conducts many scientific experiments there. Her husband, Jean-Pierre Haigneré, was the fourth Frenchman to enter the room.

► Léopold Eyharts, a general’s return to space

Léopold Eyhart’s escape marks the return of the military among French astronauts. As a fighter pilot, he took his first trip to the Mir station in 1998, where he performed medical experiments. He then visited the International Space Station in 2008 to set up the European Columbus Laboratory there.

► Philippe Perrin, collector of the International Space Station

Philippe Perrin, test pilot at Airbus, became the 9th French astronaut in March 2002. During this mission, he completed three extra vehicle excursions around the International Space Station.

► Thomas Pesquet, first French commander of the International Space Station

Aviation engineer and airline pilot Thomas Pesquet flew for the first time in 2016 to the International Space Station. Another mission, in October 2021, will even see him take command of the station, a first for a Frenchman.

With 396 days, 11 hours and 34 minutes in space, Thomas Pesquet is the Frenchman who has spent the most time in space and completed the most space walks.

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