“My daughter drew rocket crashes”: the secrets of a French astronaut

Before Thomas Pesquet, other French people went into space, including Philippe Perrin. In 2002, he spent two weeks in zero gravity to assemble the ISS. How did his family experience this perilous mission? The astronaut confides in Numerama.

Fear is a gift for astronauts. This emotion is information, which guides them in the dangerous environment of space. But what about their loved ones? If the astronaut is regularly confronted with risk in his career, whether in training or on a mission, his family is much less prepared.

How do the astronauts’ loved ones cope with the situation? “ It’s very difficult », recognizes Philippe Perrin. He knows what he’s talking about: this astronaut is the ninth Frenchman to have gone into space, in 2002. In a long interview given to Numerama, the astronaut spoke about the risks of his job for those close to him.

Discover the story of Philippe Perrin, the French astronaut who went into space before Thomas Pesquet, in our video:

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Philippe Perrin flew into space aboard the space shuttle Endeavor to assemble the International Space Station (ISS). In total, he spent two weeks in space. On this occasion, he went out of the station 3 times in a spacesuit, one of the most perilous phases for an astronaut – and therefore inevitably terrifying for his loved ones remaining on Earth. This is also what he also relates in his work Weightlesspublished last April and prefaced by the new French astronaut Sophie Adenot.

For the astronaut family, “it’s a burden, a pain”

The difficulty of dangerous jobs is that we take risks, we assume themtells Philippe Perrin to Numerama. Somehow, we can even like it. I like to make sure I know how to deal with danger and in doing that I take risks. I accept it, for me, it’s easy. The difficulty is that this risk is placed on the shoulders of those who remain. They do not have the means to know what is happening, they are not able to manage this danger, to know that we will take measures to avoid it. For them, it is a burden, a punishment. »

Philippe Perrin, in the center, surrounded by his wife Cécile and his daughters Juliette (left) and Marie. // Source: NASA/Collection of Philippe Perrin

Philippe Perrin’s close family experienced the astronaut’s three extravehicular outings in real time, thanks to NASA broadcasts. “ I have two cameras on the diving suit. It’s a shame for my wife, she was able to see my spacewalks in real time. She knows she can’t do anything, so it’s terrifying. » The astronaut’s children also followed their father’s perilous mission. “ Even the children understood that something was happening. I know that my daughter, the oldest, understood, because my mother told me that during the entire flight, she was drawing. It was her way to relieve stress, but she drew rocket crashes. »

Upon returning to Earth, Philippe Perrin decides that he will not go back into space, so as to never make his loved ones relive this anguish again. “ After making this magnificent flight into space, I decided to stop, because I didn’t necessarily want to impose that on my wife or my children. […] We can’t impose this on those we love. We assume the risks for ourselves, but we cannot assume them for others. »


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