French astronaut Thomas Pesquet has returned to Earth after six months in space, and marked his return with a Tweet showing views of the planet’s seas, snow and sand to resemble the colours of the French flag.
Mr Pesquet is the first French person to be a commander of the International Space Station (ISS), meaning that he was charged with maintaining order and safety within the station.
He and three crewmates from the SpaceX Crew-2 Alpha mission – Akihiko Hoshide from Japan and US astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur – splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida at around 04:33 today (November 9) Paris time.
Recovery vessels were at the scene moments later to bring the Crew Dragon they had travelled in back to dry land.
The Crew Dragon detached from the International Space Station (ISS) around eight-and-a-half hours earlier, packed full of 199 days’ worth of equipment and scientific experiments.
After circling the ISS for an hour and a half to photograph its exterior, the capsule had begun its descent to Earth.
When the spacecraft hatch was opened, Mr Pesquet was seen giving the teams outside a thumbs-up, his second trip to space having been completed successfully.
Before leaving the ISS, the European Space Agency astronaut had tweeted: “The pride of having represented France once again in space! Next time, the Moon? We have a return to Earth to take care of first, and then… some rest.”
Une fierté d'avoir représenté la France une nouvelle fois dans l'espace ! La prochaine fois, la Lune ? Enfin, on a un retour sur Terre à assurer d'abord, et ensuite... un peu de repos.#MissionAlpha pic.twitter.com/YYjnY5FxLv— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) November 8, 2021
The astronauts were then taken to Houston for various medical examinations studying the effect of six months of life in space on the body. They will also have to relearn how to stand up as their bodies get used once again to the effect of gravity.
Mr Pesquet, who is originally from Rouen in Normandy, will then travel to the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne for more scientific tests before taking some time off.
He embarked on his first space mission, Proxima, in 2016. For this trip, he spent another six months at the ISS, before landing on the Kazakh Steppe in a Russian Suyuz spacecraft.
Now that SpaceX Crew-2 has returned to Earth, it is Crew-3’s turn to launch into space. The four astronauts involved with this mission were originally due to lift off for the ISS before Crew-2 left, but weather concerns and a “minor medical issue” affecting one of the crew members have seen their departure put back to Wednesday (November 10).