Haigneré, Claudie

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Claudie Haigneré

Born May 13, 1957 (Le Creusot, France)

French astronaut

Claudie Haigneré grew up during the dawn of the space age. In October 1957, slightly more than five months after her birth, the former Soviet Union surprised the world by launching Sputnik 1. The first artificial satellite (an object that orbits in space), it was followed four years later by the flight of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934–1968; see entry), the first human to orbit in space. In 1969, when Haigneré was twelve years old, American astronaut Neil Armstrong (1930–; see entry) became the first human to walk on the Moon. By 2001 Haigneré herself had made space exploration history: She was the first European woman astronaut to visit the International Space Station (ISS; see entry). She had the further distinction of being only the second European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut to make the trip. After her flight to the ISS, Haigneré was appointed minister of research and new technologies in the French government.

"Men and women are different but complementary. … When we explore the planets, it will be a huge step forward for the entire human race. And the human race has two sexes."

Inspired by Armstrong

Claudie André-Deshays Haigneré (pronounced cloh-dee ahn-DRAY day-shay heh-nyair-AY) was born on May 13, 1957,

in Le Creusot, France, where she grew up. (She married fellow astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré in 2001. For most of her career she was known as Claudie André-Deshays, but in most recent publications she is generally called Claudie Haigneré.) In an interview published on the ESA website, she said that Armstrong's moon walk inspired her fascination with space. "For me, it was a kind of revelation," Haigneré recalled. "I was watching a dream turn into reality. A door was open. I didn't immediately imagine that it was open for me, but the lunar landing gave me a taste for space." As a space exploration enthusiast, she read books and watched television documentaries on the subject. Before becoming an astronaut, however, she pursued a career in medicine. Graduating from high school at age fifteen, she went on to earn degrees in biology (the study of plant and animal life), sports medicine, and rheumatology (the study of inflammation and pain in joints of the body).

In 1985, while practicing as a doctor at a hospital in Paris, Haigneré happened to see a National Center for Space Studies (CNES) notice on a bulletin board: The agency was seeking applications from scientists to work in its microgravity research program (research on the virtual absence of gravity). She leaped at the chance, knowing this was an opportunity to become involved in space exploration. After a lengthy selection process she was chosen as one of only seven candidates—and the only woman—from one thousand applicants. While waiting for her first flight she continued her scientific career. In 1986 she received a diploma in the biomechanics and physiology of movement (the study of biological and physical processes of the body), then six years later she completed a Ph.D. in neuroscience (the study of the nervous system). During this time she was involved in studying human reactions to weightlessness. Her experiments were part of preparations for the French-Soviet Aragatz mission to the Russian space station Mir, which took place in 1988. (A space station is a research laboratory that orbits in space.) Since France does not maintain its own space vehicles, French astronauts participated in missions sponsored by the Russian Aviation and Space Agency (Rosoviakosmos). They prepared for flights at Star City, the Russian cosmonaut (astronaut) training center near Moscow.

Beginning in 1989, Haigneré coordinated preflight scientific experiments for the French-Russian Antarès mission, which took place in 1992. She also headed space physiology and medical programs in the Life Sciences Division of CNES in Paris. In 1992 she was chosen as a backup crew member for Jean-Pierre Haigneré on the French-Russian Altair mission. (A backup crew member is an astronaut trained to take the place of a main-crew astronaut who is not approved to go on a flight.) Jean-Pierre completed the flight—the Altair was launched on July 1, 1993, and returned to Earth on July 22—so Claudie remained on the ground at the mission control center in Kaliningrad, Russia. She monitored biological and medical experiments that were being conducted in space by the Altair crew. The following year she supervised French experiments for the ESA Euromir 94 space station mission.

Jean-Pierre Haigneré

Jean-Pierre Haigneré (1948–) became an astronaut with the French National Space Agency in 1985. He made two trips to the Russian space station Mir. The first was a three-week stay in 1992; the second was a historic six-month visit launched on February 20, 1999. Traveling on the Soyuz craft Perseus, Haigneré was the first non-Russian to serve as onboard engineer both for a Soyuz flight and for the Mir. During his stay on the space station he participated in life science, physics, and biology experiments. He also took a spacewalk to perform biological and comet dust experiments outside the station. When the Perseus landed in Kazakhstan nearly 189 days later, on August 28, Haigneré had made the longest flight by a non-Russian astronaut. The record was previously held by American astronaut Shannon Lucid (1943–; see entry), whose Mir mission had lasted 188 days, 4 hours, and 14 seconds.

The Perseus crew members were the last people to stay on Mir. Before returning to Earth they left the space station in a "standby" mode, with no occupants on-board. (Russia took Mir out of service in

2004, crashing it in the Pacific Ocean.) Upon returning from the Mir mission, Haigneré was appointed head of the Astronaut Division of the European Astronaut Corps (EAC). In 2003 he became senior advisor to the director of launchers, a position in which he oversees the Soyuz human spaceflight program at the EAC spaceport in French Guiana.

Makes two space flights

Haigneré was finally selected for her first flight in 1994. As a scientific research consultant and main crew member on the Soyuz vehicle Cassiopeé, she started training in January 1995 at Star City. (Soyuz is the name of a Russian manned space capsule. A name such as Cassiopeé refers to a specific mission of a Soyuz capsule.) The Cassiopeé was launched into space on August 17, 1996, returning safely to Earth sixteen days later, on September 2. Haigneré then remained in Moscow as the French representative of Starsem, a French-Russian space technology firm. In 1998 she was again selected as the backup for Jean-Pierre, this time on the French-Russian Perseus mission to Mir. During training she qualified as a cosmonaut engineer for a Soyuz spacecraft and for the Mir space station. She thus became the first woman to achieve the rank of Soyuz return commander, a position in which she was responsible for the reentry of a three-person Soyuz capsule from space. Jean-Pierre participated in the Perseus flight, which took place in February 1999, while Claudie was stationed at the ground control center in Korolev, Russia. She coordinated communication between the Perseus crew and ground control.

In 1998 Claudie Haigneré was selected for the European Astronaut Corps (EAC), which had been formed by the ESA. The ESA had participated in manned spaceflight prior to that time, but it did not have a formal astronaut program. The ESA first recruited astronauts in 1978 for flights to Skylab, a U.S. space station. The ESA selected its next group of astronauts in 1992 for the ESA Hermes and Columbus programs. The ESA created the EAC, which is based in Cologne, Germany, to train astronauts for the ISS program. The EAC constitution established a permanent corps of sixteen astronauts: four from Germany, four from France, four from Italy, and four from member states of the European Union. Claudie Haigneré and Jean-Pierre Haigneré were among the first seven EAC astronauts chosen in 1998.

After joining the EAC, Claudie Haigneré was involved in microgravity and medical projects for the European space program. In 2001, after three months of training at Star City for her second flight, she went into space with a Russian crew on-board the Soyuz vehicle Andromede. On this flight she became the first woman to visit the ISS and the first non-Russian woman to be a Soyuz flight engineer. The goal of the mission, called a "taxi flight," was to replace the old Soyuz capsule presently on the ISS with a new one. This meant that the astronauts would leave the capsule they arrived in at the space station and then return to Earth in the old capsule. After

completing the eight-day mission, Haigneré and the two other members of her crew returned to Earth, landing in Kazakhstan, where Russian support crews pulled them out of the capsule, wrapped them in double fur bags, and put them in special chairs to ease their readjustment to Earth's gravity.

Takes government post

Claudie and Jean-Pierre were married in 2001. The following year she was appointed to the post of minister for re-search and new technologies in the French government. She was also awarded the French Legion of Honor. Haigneré sees part of her mission as educational: showing young Europeans that Europe has a strong space program and that careers in science and technology can be fulfilling. She also would like to see more women involved in the European Astronaut Corps. Only one in sixteen European astronauts, or 6 percent, is female, and Haigneré believes this number could be higher. As she commented to an ESA interviewer, however, she also realizes that it is difficult for women to have "100 percent commitment and 100 percent availability" for the program. Women are usually more constrained than men by work and family responsibilities. Yet, she added, "I am confident that the new generation will be in better shape to choose its own future without any constraints of inequality." Haigneré also noted that women do well in space, and that teams that included both men and women have been shown to perform better than all-male teams. "Men and women are different but complementary," she concluded. "When we explore the planets, it will be a huge step forward for the entire human race. And the human race has two sexes."

For More Information


Balter, Michael. "France's Highflier Comes Down to Earth." Science (August 16, 2002): pp. 1112–13.

Web Sites

"Claudie Haigneré." WorldSpaceFlight.com.http://www.worldspaceflight.com/bios/h/haignere-c.htm (accessed on June 29, 2004).

"ESA Astronaut Claudie Haigneré Appointed Minister." ESA (June 18, 2002). http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/ESAU80OED2D_Life_0.html (accessed on June 29, 2004).

"First European Woman Heads for Space Station Alpha." Spaceflight Now (October 20, 2001). http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0110/20haignere/ (accessed on June 29, 2004).

"An Interview with Claudie Haigneré." ESA.http://www.esa.int/export/esaHS/ESA2CU0VMOC_astronauts_0.html (accessed on June 29, 2004).

"Jean-Pierre Haigneré." Encyclopedia Astronomica.http://www.astronautix.com/astros/haignere.htm (accessed on June 29, 2004).