My friend Jeanette Epps, Astronaut at NASA, is floating in the ISS!

 In News, News Exploration, News UltraPerformance

Jeanette Epps NASA Astronaut for 6 months on the ISS

My astronaut friend Jeanette Epps has joined the ISS. She’s an astronaut at NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration  – and will be conducting 6 months of experiments aboard the ISS International Space Station.

Find out more here in my talks keynotes about this mindset of explorers

A story of friendship

We studied together at the University of Maryland in 1994-95 with Jeanette and her twin sister Janet…

It wasn’t easy for a Marseillais who wasn’t very fluent in English to pronounce their names correctly, but it made them laugh, and they’d take me back, laughing out loud! “Maaark!!!!…

My friendship with Jeanette Epps is like a piece of my childhood dreams that she carries with all her might through the ups and downs of life! We exchanged a lot after the cancellation of her first flight of 2018, and unconsciously, in complete trust, we knew how to support each other in our challenges. She promised me that in 2019. So, in the words of an astronaut, Jeanette invited me and her closest relations to attend her departure in March 2024. It’s from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station, the ISS, and there we’ll meet again. It’s such a touching gesture for me, just a few hours away from fulfilling her greatest dream! The icing on the cake is that I’ve been able to bring my mom along – it’s the first trip just the two of us!

Rendez-vous for the launch to the ISS at the Kennedy Space Center

Seeing Jeanette again, along with her twin sister Janet, family and friends at the famous “Wave across” was an indescribable thrill. The Crew8 crew and the few people in quarantine accompanying them are just a few meters away from us, we can exchange words, laughter, eyes shining with contained tears, selfies from a distance… It’s a bit surreal. It’s more like a hectic, NASA-supervised zoo visit than an intimate moment, but it’s memorable. The official launch date is 24 hours away.

But for a NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration launch with SpaceX, it’s patience and “Explorer’s Mindset”! As with an extreme sport record attempt, everything is ready to go, but the weather has to be part of the equation! There are strong winds and waves under the rocket’s trajectory (especially in Ireland!!!), and therefore risks in the event of failure to recover the crew at sea…

New wait for Jeanette Epps Astronaut, her crew and everyone else

Tick, tock, tick, tock… This is the fourth postponement since the original date of February 18. The next window is 48 hours from now, this Saturday at 11:16 p.m. EST in Cape Canaveral. Jeanette and Crew8 are once again on standby, continuing their quarantine in their hotel. This enforced wait gives us a chance to chat with several astronauts, such as Warren Hoburg and Andre Douglas, who are at our side, as well as NASA staff and program managers.

Moments suspended between very concrete lunar expeditions despite the enormous technical obstacles, exploration of Mars and the asteroids. Also the Titan seabed with space submersibles, our sustainable future on Earth, scientific experiments on the ISS. It’s also fascinating to experience SpaceX’s all-out trial-and-error approach up close, compared with NASA’s very conservative one… A lot of Zephir Project in all this. Very inspiring. An absolute delight!

Launch of Jeanette Epps Astronaut and Crew-8 in preparation

On Saturday afternoon, for the first time, preparations got under way, with the crew getting dressed, which we could follow on NASA Live. Finally, a “NO GO” sounded with three hours to go, before the rocket’s stages began to fill… The launch was postponed again until the following day, Sunday evening at 10:53pm this time.

There was consternation. Jeanette had worked hard for 15 years on this first space mission. But she’s no stranger to hard work, her spirits are high, and she’s absolutely resilient despite the difficulties! Sadly, many of her family members have to leave for places all over the USA and the rest of the world. I managed to postpone our return to France by 24 hours… We’re keeping our fingers crossed… This will be our last launch window.

Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew-Dragon Crew-8

Bis repetita on Sunday evening. This time, everything is going according to plan. A moment of doubt, however, around a crack in the seal of the Dragon capsule’s access door. Just ten minutes before launch, SpaceX and NASA engineers agreed that the seal was sound… Feedback allowed the countdown to continue.

The words echoed through the Cape Canaveral night:

“10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – Ignition – Engine Full Power,

and Liftoff of NASA Crew-8 – GO Falcon – GO Dragon!”

Indescribable emotions

The lift-off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is impressive, and tears of emotion flow as our Crew8 friends are propelled into space amidst a continuous din. After a few seconds of cheers, there was silence in the stands, eyes transfixed on the deafening incandescence.

After a minute, they reach Mach 1 (the sound barrier) and an altitude of 10 km!

Then Mach 2 and 20 km, 30 seconds later… And Mach 3 and 30 km, 20 seconds later… Everything accelerates! It’s mind-boggling!

The boosters separate from the rocket, a critical moment… A huge luminous halo of gas forms around the two giant firecrackers, like a multicolored black hole before our very eyes, then slowly dissipates.

Spectacle in the Cape Canaveral sky

The second stage propulsion system extends its thrust while the two boosters return to the ground. They return to the ground a few hundred meters from us with a loud “Bang!” that startles us all. Power and pinpoint precision.

The rocket continues its flight, NASA giving us live updates. Perfect trajectory. The astronauts pass over Ireland, no aborts, the control room or the crew could still have done it… Everything is “nominal”.

We’re breathing a little easier. This was the last option for rescue in the atmosphere. It’s easy to see why, in the procedure, the bad weather over Ireland forced a postponement twice in a row.

Deliverance for Jeanette Epps & Crew-8!

Deliverance for Crew8 comes with the SECO (Second Engine Cut Off), the second stage completing its propulsion to approach the 28,000 km/h of the ISS. It separates from the Dragon where the crew is.

After these 8-9 minutes of madness, weightlessness sets in with the launch into orbit. The module’s engines continue their progressive thrust as they climb to altitude for 26 hours of travel. Passengers can get out of their spacesuits to sleep and prepare for the next maneuvers.

Perfect docking with the ISS

Here we are at last, Jeanette, 15 years of training on SOYOUZ, then Boeing Starliner (their program is on standby due to technical difficulties), and now SpaceX with the Dragon capsule. It’s the start of 6 months of experimentation and unique emotions. These last few days at Cape Canaveral with his close friends and many astronauts, his second family, have been of a rare intensity, thanks to this bad weather.

But like all waiting for the right window, these are exceptional moments for each person in this little bubble where you can talk, dream, share and reflect on yourself too.

What a gift this extraordinary immersion is. The Americans have an incredible strength, that of thinking big (“Think Big!”) and giving themselves the means to get there, with perseverance and pragmatic humility in the face of difficulties. And I love that spirit!

Right now, Jeanette Epps is floating in the ISS with her Crew 8 crew.

She’s in her own bubble with the ISS crew, with only one certainty, as astronauts like Thomas Pesquet say: the day and time of take-off are only known… once we’ve left… The same goes for the return journey.

An extraordinary new adventure begins for her and all those around her! GO GO GO Jeanette Epps Astronaut!

Photo Credit: NASA / SpaceX

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