40 years ago, Jean-Loup Chrétien became the first Frenchman in space

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In 1965, November 26, a rocket Diamond A takes off from Algeria with a small satellite called Asterix on board. France then becomes the third space power in the world behind the United States and the USSR, that is, a nation capable of placing a cargo in orbit by its own means. But compared to the two superpowers, France and Europe did not and still do not have the technical means to bring one astronaut in space.

Either way, Europe and France will subsequently focus on international cooperation, thanks to the warming of relations that took place at the end of the Cold War. In 1982, only two machines in the world allow humans to fly beyond ours atmospherethe very young American space shuttle and the ship Soyuz.

collaboration and science

It is on the latter it Jean-Loup Chretien, a former French Air Force test pilot, went on board on June 24 of that year with Vladimir Djanibekov and Alexandre Ivanchenkov. The Soyuz T-6 mission then took off Baikonur against space station Soviet Salyut-7. The symbol is strong: it is the first astronaut from the Western bloc to board these Soviet vessels.

The mission is fully in line with the purpose of the brand new Salyut 7 to conduct new scientific experiments, especially to understand space flight effects on the human body. Jean-Loup not only went out into space, he found a whole battery of French scientific instruments specially designed for Salyut in orbit.

Jean-Loup Chrétien, the first Frenchman sent into space aboard a Soviet rocket, a Soyuz T-6. That was in 1982.

The first in an era

It is especially for this mission that CNES recruited its first astronauts. Only two were selected out of 400: Jean-Loup Chrétien and Patrick Baudry. After a quick but intense training in Moscow, the two astronauts are ready. Chrétien is selected, Baudry is in the reserve crew. The latter, however, will not fly as part of the French-Soviet missions, but on the American shuttle three years later.

Jean-Loup Chrétien will take off again aboard a Soyuz in 1988, mod We station this time, where he will cross a new milestone: to be the first astronaut, neither American nor Soviet, to complete a spacewalk. He made his third and final spaceflight in 1997 aboard the Atlantis shuttle before leaving Cnes and acquiring dual U.S. nationality to end his career at NASA.

Jean-Loup Chrétien is the first of 10 Frenchmen to have flown into space, the most recent being Thomas Pésquet. In a few months isESA will unveil his new promotion of astronauts, we get the eleventh Frenchman?

What to remember

  • Jean-Loup Chrétien is the first Frenchman and the first Western European to travel in space.
  • He is also the first astronaut from the Western Bloc to have flown on Soviet machines.
  • It was 40 years ago, on June 24, 1982 for the Soyuz T-6 mission to the Salyut 7 station.

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