The story of the first French astronaut to fly into space

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Forty years ago, on June 24, 1982, Jean-Lup Critian became the first Frenchman to fly a star, joining a Soviet space station.

That was forty years ago. On June 24, 1982, Jean-Loop Critian departed from Baikonur to join the Soviet space station Saliu. He became the first Frenchman to fly into space, paving the way for the revival of the Cold War for intense scientific cooperation between Paris and Moscow. Its mission name was “PVH” (“the first man-made flight”): an eight-day position in the orbit of Salyut 7, the ancestor of Mir station. The guest of the permanent crew, Jean-Luppe Cretin, was the first foreign visitor to come from a communist country and the first French astronaut. Quite a symbol. But on the day of the flight from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, his head was elsewhere.

“You don’t think about it. My state of mind was the test of endurance, the end of a dream… and so much excitement. “The former astronaut is now 84 years old. He remembers this “Moment of shock” Where the Soyuz rocket was launched, where he settled with Alexander Ivanchenkov and Vladimir Janibekov. “After two years of training, two weeks of quarantine … everything happened so fast!” “In less than ten minutes, I found myself in orbit, I discovered the attraction of weightlessness. Through the porthole, I saw the earth … it was an unforgettable sight.”He confides, still moving.

“For the USSR, everything was a secret.”

A fighter pilot, then 44 years old. As a child, Morlex Airfield (Finister), with whom she lived, gave birth to a child. “Fascination for the third dimension”. Tintin’s albums “Objective Lune” and “On a March sur la Lune” anchor this passion to the sky. And when Yuri Gagarin became the first man to fly into space (1961), a student at the Salon-de-Provence Aeronautical School set himself the ambition to become an astronaut. But the Air Force did not hold him back in his election. “At 41, I was too old. “. He then presents himself as a free candidate, goes through various stages and that is it “Pleasantly surprised” The preparation for the Franco-Soviet mission will eventually be held by CNES (National Center for Space Studies), with Patrick Boudry as a stand-in.

“PVH” marks the end of the French desire to cooperate with the USSR, led by de Gaulle, who was the first Western head of state to visit Baikonur in 1966, in the context of relaxation, Lionel Suchet explained, Director-General of the French space agency. But when Jean-Loup Chrétien began his training at Star City near Moscow, the war in Afghanistan rekindled East-West relations: “As soon as we arrived, the French ambassador told us to ‘get ready to go.'”. “It simply came to our notice then. From the USSR side, everything was secret. Jean-Luppe and Patrick were suffering from it, they were trained in a ‘tight’ way without contact with their base in France. “Lionel insisted on Suchet.

Russian friends

Fortunately, Jean-Loop Cretin says, “On site we’ve dealt with great people who have done everything they can to make it better.”. Weaving close ties with the Russians, with “Diplomacy”, Astronaut “Has played a pioneering role. We owe him a lot.”Lionel greets Suchet. It was on these bases that Paris and Moscow were able to build space cooperation, which accelerated in the early 1990s. “With the fall of the Berlin Wall, we finally saw the people we were working with secretly.According to a CNES official.

Scientists and technologists from both countries have worked for years “Symbiosis” On a manned flight. This period peaked in the early 2000s. Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the flight of Jean-Loop Kritien on CNES on Friday will be without its former crew, the space agency regrets. “It’s sad”Comments Jean-Loup Chrétien, daily contact with his former Russian colleagues and friends.

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