Astronauts are a great source of national pride, reflecting their country’s ambitions and symbolizing excellence and dedication. The presence in Toulouse this week of over 100 astronauts is an exceptional event highlighting France’s eminent role in the international space arena and its commitment to human spaceflight. The congress also comes in the wake of Thomas Pesquet’s recent return to Earth, after a mission that captivated young and old alike. The experiments he conducted aboard the International Space Station were in no small measure made possible by CNES’s CADMOS unit, which is continuing its work to devise and perform new experiments for astronauts to advance scientific research in the years ahead.
The CNES team working on SuperCam, one of the instruments set to equip the Mars 2020 rover, is also in the spotlight at the congress. Thomas Pesquet presented the team with a Martian rock ejected from the planet’s surface by a meteorite collision and discovered in Morocco. The idea is to put this rock back where it came from in a little over three years’ time, an operation combining space exploration and robotics that will be calling on the expertise of astronauts and CNES. This much-travelled rock will thus serve as a calibration target for SuperCam in 2020.
Concluding his speech, Jean-Yves Le Gall said: “I would like to pay tribute to all of the astronauts who embark on the most amazing human and technological adventures in the name of science. We are proud to be marking this extraordinary moment here at the Cité de l’espace, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. We are fortunate to have many new challenges to look forward to as we seek to invent the future of space, and the men and women capable of meeting those challenges are all here this week in Toulouse, the beating heart of France’s and Europe’s space programme.”
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