Death of French astronaut Jean-Jacques Favier at the age of 73

Jean-Jacques Favier, September 29, 1993. © NASA Public Domain

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Jean-Jacques Favier is dead, an announcement made by his family this Friday, March 24. The French astronaut was 74 years old and had flown a mission into space aboard NASA's shuttle Columbia in 1996.


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On June 20, 1996, the engines of the shuttle Columbia ignite at Cape Canaveral, Jean-Jacques Favier is on board. He is the sixth French astronaut to begin a sixteen-day mission in space. He has been waiting for this mission all his life. At the age of 12, his parents gave him a copy of Jules Verne's book, Around the World in 80 Days, inside a little note: "You will be part of the generation that will do it in 80 minutes".

He achieved this goal aboard the shuttle Columbia, but he had to persevere to achieve it. A physicist by training, he joined the astronaut group of the Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES) in 1985 as an experimental astronaut, while he was a research engineer at the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). The French space agency is opening the selection to non-pilots for the first time.

But the opportunity for a mission did not present itself and in 1992, Jean-Jacques Favier left the France for the United States. He then applied directly to NASA, a choice that paid off since the American space agency would fly him four years later. 256 orbits around the Earth used to carry out a large number of experiments. In total, it spent 16 days, 21 hours and 48 minutes in orbit from June 20 to July 7, 1996. That is 14 years after Jean-Loup Chrétien, the first Frenchman to have flown in space, aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

French astronaut Jean-Jacques Favier on June 20, 1996. © ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP

More than thirty experiments during its mission in space

Jean-Jacques Favier thus becomes "the first French scientist to have stayed in space," says CNES, paying tribute to his "exemplary career". "It will leave its mark on future generations and inspire many of us," CNES CEO Philippe Baptiste said in the statement.

During his mission, Jean-Jacques Favier was responsible for more than thirty physics experiments in microgravity. On his return, he wishes to transmit: he has intervened a hundred times in schools with the youngest. He is also involved in research, notably by collaborating on a CNES project to prepare a future lunar and/or Martian base.

We learned with sadness of the passing of Jean-Jacques Favier, the sixth French astronaut to have gone into space.

We salute his exemplary career that will leave a lasting mark on the world of astronautics.

👉 👨 🚀🙏

— CNES (@CNES) March 24, 2023


and with AFP)

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