As part of his mission to the International Space Station more than more than 20 years ago, former French astronaut Philippe Perrin got to perform three spacewalks. He tells RFI about the most distinct memories of his mission above the Earth.
Of the three times Perrin had to step outside into space, the most challenging and high pressure moment was a spacewalk to repair a key component of the ISS – the Canadian robotic arm, which needed one of its joints replaced.
"If we had not been able to repair it in time the hand would have been lost," Perrin says, explaining that electrical equipment in space requires a fairly consistent current.
"And we had no spare parts."
Being sent to the ISS – a state-of-the-art microgravity laboratory – was a defining moment in Perrin's career. Just entering the facility, which Perrin himself helped to design, was a breathtaking experience.
The welcome from the crew both on board and on the ground was very warm. "What I really liked was the international aspect of the International Space Station," Perrin says.
The space shuttle used for his mission to the ISS was the most complex plane ever built, explains Perrin, who got his pilot wings back in 1996.
"Being in charge is wonderful ... on takeoff, if we were to lose flight control the astronaut was able to take the hand controller and fly the rocket."