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Monday, Jan 30, 2023

Macron to Kamala Harris: Take my man to the moon

Macron to Kamala Harris: Take my man to the moon

The French president wants to make sure his astronaut gets a ride on the Artemis mission.
As America plots a way for mankind to take its first steps back on the moon since 1972, Emmanuel Macron just wants to make sure the first European to go is French.

“I have a candidate for you for flying to the moon,” the French president told U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris as the two met at NASA headquarters Wednesday, according to a video posted on social media.

The contender standing next to him was Thomas Pesquet, a 44-year-old Frenchman first selected as a European Space Agency astronaut in 2009, who has since been to the International Space Station twice.

The U.S. government is aiming to return humans to the surface of the moon around 2025 under the third stage of its Artemis program. The first mission, the unmanned Artemis 1, is set to splash down in the Pacific Ocean on December 11, with Artemis 2 set to make the same journey around the moon but with humans onboard.

The third Artemis mission, which won’t happen until 2025 at the earliest, will then aim to transport humans back to the lunar surface.

“He wants to go to Artemis 3,” Macron said of Pesquet in the video posted to his personal Twitter account, putting his compatriot forward as a willing candidate.

The ESA already provides propulsion modules for the Artemis missions, which allow NASA’s Orion rocket to maneuver in orbit. Under a barter deal, those technology deliveries then secure the Paris-based ESA seats on manned space missions.

However, the standing deal was not expected to include a spot on Artemis 3 and, regardless, the ESA’s management, not national leaders, usually decides which of the serving astronauts are put forward for international missions.

The agency has so far not publicly selected who from its recently enlarged astronaut core would be selected for any future moon mission. However, Pesquet is keen to fly and previously told POLITICO he’d like to see Europe embark on its own human spaceflight program.

In the video, the French space explorer was full of praise for the “magical” launch of Artemis 1 this month from the Kennedy Space Center.

“That’d be fun,” Pesquet told Harris, who chairs the National Space Council, of the chance to ride Artemis 3.
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