*** ----> French, Belgian astronauts named next Europeans to fly to ISS | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

French, Belgian astronauts named next Europeans to fly to ISS

AFP | Paris, France

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

France's Sophie Adenot and Belgium's Raphael Liegeois will be the first two from a new class of European astronauts to blast off to the International Space Station, the European Space Agency said yesterday. Adenot will join the crew onboard the ISS, around 400 kilometres (250 miles) above Earth, in 2026 for a six-month mission, after which she will be replaced by Liegeois. The pair were among five new European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts selected in 2022 out more than 20,000 applicants.

"I am very happy to fly first," Adenot told AFP in an interview from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The 41-year-old engineer and helicopter pilot will become the second French woman onboard the ISS, after Claudie Haignere in 2001.

"Claudie inspired me lot -- we are in contact often, she gives me advice," Adenot said. French Higher Education Minister Sylvie Retailleau said it was "a real source of pride". "Sophie Adenot is a model of scientific commitment for all our young girls," she told AFP. Liegeois, a 36-year-old Belgian-Luxembourg balloon pilot with a background in neuroscience, said in a statement that he "simply cannot wait to tackle this new upcoming challenge".

The pair -- along with Switzerland's Marco Sieber, the UK's Rosemary Coogan and Spain's Pablo Alvarez Fernandez -- officially graduated as astronauts in April following a year of basic training in Germany.