John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2011 May 4
    Jean-Francois Clevroy, astronaut, on 2011 May 3 gave a talk 
'Living the dream' at the France consulate on Manhattan. Overseas 
space/astronomy accomplishments are bannered in US thru UN missions or 
consulates in New York. Typicly a country's UN mission and consulate 
are in the same offices, like for this one of France. The France 
consulate house is on 5th Av, 74/75 St, facing Central Park. There 
being no close subway, I rode a Madison Av bus to, Fifth Av bus from. 
the building. 
    The event was announced to NYSkies on May 2, missing the May 2011 
NYC Events. I posted it into the NYSkies yahoogroup in morning of May 
3rd, where the better astronomers of New York caught it. . 
    The lecture was free but advance registration was required. The 
email address in the announcement for RSVP bounced. I phoned in my 
RSVP. I brang with me a printout of email and error as a backup. 
    There was a quick look thru bags and a look at photo ID at the 
security desk. Stowing coats was optional. I left my jacket and one 
shopping bag and took my shoulder bag with me to the lecture room. 
    The talk was mostly a slideshow with some video clips embedded. 
The microphone was set a bit softly but room was quiet. The audience 
seemed attentive with little fidget. For some of the !&A, Jean-
Francois wandered away from the podium and spoke without the mike. 
    About 50 attended the event with about 15 astronomers from NYSkies 
and Inwood Hill. Some ally with both and with other clubs. Most of the 
Q&A was with this group. Most other attendees were passive audience 
    Jean-Francois Clervoy is a native of France and took almost all 
education thru university level in France. He was an aerospace 
engineer at various agencies and companies. 
    He is 53 years old, married with two children, and enjoys several 
outdoor sports. He's a voice for the ESA and France space program and 
works in aerospace software development.. 
    He joined CNES, the France space agency, in 1985 and ESA in 1992. 
He trained at Johnson SFC for Shuttle work and at Star City, Russia, 
for Soyuz and Mir work. 
    Among the hardest courses Ckervoy struggled with at Star City was 
the Russian language. This was required for any work with Russian 
space facilities. 
    He served three terms in space, totaling 439 orbits around Earth 
and 675h 05m in space: 
    flight  | Shuttle   | month    | mission       | orbit | time 
    STS-66  | Atlantis  | Nov 1994 | free-flying   |  175  | 262h 34m 
    STS-84  | Atlantis  | May 1997 | crew at Mir   |  144  | 221h 20m 
    STS-102 | Discovery | Dec 1999 | Hubble repair |  120  | 191h 11m 
    Jean-Francois spoke good English with a mild pleasant accent. He 
also understanded questions to give complete detailed answers  He 
engaged the audience during the reception after the talk. 
Space Shuttle
    Because all three trips into space were via the Space Shuttle, 
Clervoy spent some time reviewing its operations. He had the usual 
pictures of the preparation, launch, and return of Shuttles. The 
pictures were from various flights, not necessarily his own. 
    He noted the coming retirement of the Shuttle. He said the final 
Shuttles are Endeavour 'yesterday' (May 2) and Atlantis in June. 
Endeavour was at May 3rd already set back to week of May 9th, after 
the lecture.
    He seemed agreeable to allow astronauts to ride Russia's Soyuz, 
other foreign craft, or commercial craft to and from ISS. 
    Scenes shown in the US of humans at a space station are almost 
entirely in the International Space Station or, before it, Skylab. 
There are very few of any Soviet or Russian station. In spite of this 
lack, there was little reaction from the audience when viewing the 
scenes of Mir. 
 .  Because Mir was an earlier facility its equipment was of an older 
build and design. The Soviets and Russians were far less endowed than 
the US to field a space station, letting some of its systems be of 
lesser than optimal quality.    
    Clervoy explained the furniture and fixtures of Mir but didn't 
compare Mir with ISS. This was probably because he never served on 
ISS. Nor did he highlight particular features of Mir as a 
Soviet/Russian example of space design and operation. 
    He described, like just about every other person riding in ISS or 
other station, the use of the toilets. 
    Unless familiar with space equipment it wasn't obvious from the 
pictures that Mir was an ancient craft compared to ISS. The main 
difference was that Mir was smaller, more like a submarine, than ISS. 
Everything was crowded into in a smaller cabin. 
International Space Station 
    Jean-Francois described ISS in a general way, he never serving 
with it. He noted that ESA has 8% share of ISS thru 2020. This will 
stay the same there after if ISS continues. 
    This 8% includes any mix of crew, equipment, expenses, repairs. It 
works out to allow one ESA astronaut per two years. With SHuttle 
leaving the scene, the ESA crew members will ride Soyuz capsules until 
other craft come into service. 
    The current crew on ISS returns by the Soyuz capsule already 
attached to ISS when the new crew arrives. The arriving capsule 
replaces the departing one and then waits until the next crew 
exchange. While docked to ISS this capsule is a lifeboat in case of 
emergency escape. 
    Before going into space, each person undergoes an extensive 
training regimen of many months. Clervoy, because he was visiting Mir, 
trained at Star City near Moscow. This facility is off-limits to 
foreigners (and Soviet citizens). The course is rigorous with long 
    The dropout rate is, surprisingly, low because the candidate is 
chosen from among people who already have a military-style discipline 
and some substantial aerospace accomplishments. on the other hand, 
including this preliminary selection stage, few candidates survive  to 
enter formal astronaut training. 
    The greatest hurdle to jump is health and medical state. A person 
can be released from training at any time due a thick book of medical 
conditions, even simple ones like nasal drip. The station could be 
rendered unfit for habitation if loose phlegma mist up the cabin air. 
    For a spacewalk or other complex mission, the operation is 
simulated with every conceivably contingency. The crew must learn to 
do the tasks correctly on the first attempt and to deal with problems 
as they arise along the way. There is no spontaneous action to get 
around a trouble point. Only the prescribed remedy is allowed and this 
is practiced in the simulations. 
    The training includes the discipline and attention to instructions 
from other crew, according to rank, and from the ground base. WHile 
there is dialog about the commands, the final word is then obeyed. 
    A trip to space is carefully planner in advance. The ride is not 
at all a time-at-leisure visit where you can do as you like. Each 
person's function is defined for the trip and each is in a sequence of 
command and control relative to the other crew. 
    Living conditions are much like camping with very few comforts. 
Tools, work items, furnishings are built to conserve mass and size. 
Every thing is on inventory, tagged and monitored for location and 
condition. Consumibles are carefully monitored and logged. 
    Trash must be dutifully captured and bagged. If there is a 
destructive reentry during the flight, the trash is packed into the 
returning capsule to burn up up on the way down to Earth. 
    Once in space, there is no bailing out of an unpleasant stay. The 
astronaut must stay in place until the tour is finished. In case of 
genuine emergency, there may -- but not for sure -- be a return ride 
coming soon. Else the crew remains on duty. 
    The zero-g setting requires that every thing be positively stowed 
when not in use. No item can be left on the table for later. It will 
drift away to do mischief in the station. At the very best it will get 
lost inside or behind furniture that can not be moved or opened. 
    Equipment on the station is operated for an assigned purpose and 
only under prescribed conditions. Otherwise it is left alone to run 
under its predetermined schedule. 
    Every task is performed 'by the numbers' step-by=step, each being 
verified as properly completed before the next is started. The crew 
must always know what can go wrong and how to deal with that case. A 
initial mistake or wrong reaction can put the entire  station and crew 
in a life-threat situation. 
    Conversation is closely defined to ensure correct comprehension. 
Only the proper jargon, acronyms, numbers are allowed. It was here 
that Clervoy had probably his greatest difficulty. He on Mir had to 
get about only with Russian. The Russian equivalents of American 
linguistics is not a straight crosswalk. 
    Only approved personal items are allowed on the station. Each item 
must be presented for carefully examination and testing for possible 
hazard to the crew or station. There are many rejections for what look 
like harmless items like plastic models, grooning items, snack food. 
In some cases an approved alternative is provided by the space agency. 
    Clervoy explained one way to keep sanity under the stress and 
pressure of a space flight. In the simulations and training think 
'this is real'. On the station, think 'this is a simulation'. And 
always consider the worst scenario for a mishap at every instant. 
    There can be a sweep of fear from not knowing what may happen 
next. The trick to control this fear is to know what to di if the 
feared situation does occur. 
Sun and stars 
    He explained that he tried to examine the sky and probably didn't 
see any more stars than from a darksky site on the ground. The absence 
of atmospheric light loss was offset by thick coated windows of the 
spacecraft and visors of the spacesuit. 
    To see the stars at all, he had to keep the Sun out of view by 
hiding it behind the craft wall or turning away from it. Letting it 
shine on the face destroyed his night vision. 
    Identifying stars was real tough. There was no horizon or compass 
directions. The sky moved in erratic ways, not along a diurnal path. 
The sky shifted rapidly as the craft circled Earth or changed 
    The day-night cycle was totally upset by not only the orbital 
motion but the frequent change of attitude of the spacecraft. Daily 
task, like sleep and bath, were done by the clock or instruction from 
the ground base. Toilet functions could be handled as needed but the 
activity was dutifully logged. 
Meteors and aurora
    Clervoy saw lots of meteors on the night side of Earth FROM ABOVE.  
At first he wasn't sure what they were until other crew pointed them 
out BELOW the spacecraft. They were brilliant, probably from the 
airless line of sight to them, but shorter than seen from the ground. 
They looked short because they were several hundred kilometers away, 
not the many tens or so as viewed from the ground. 
    Auroae were seen as patchy glows or arcs in the north on the night 
side of Earth. He flew in a low to mid latitude orbit, so the aurora 
were never under him. 
    He also saw vertical auroral spikes reaching to, or almost, 
orbital elevation. He said these ere still poorly studied since they 
can be seen only from orbit, being masked by other aurora glows from 
the ground. 
    On all of his flights, and on all other human flights by all 
craft, the crew took pictures of assigned targets on the ground. These 
keep an eye on storms, disasters, pollution, climate effects. Many 
targets were not obviously important but they could be 'spy' targets. 
    Each crew member had his own list of targets and must bring the 
pictures back or transmit them to his own ground base. The ground base 
processes the images for its own purpose. It then releases to the 
public the pictures at its discretion. He showed several examples. 
Women in space
    ESA and Russia so far prefer only male crew, Other countries and 
US include female crew. Altho Russia a couple years ago resumed taking 
applications from women, none processed thru to become cosmonauts yet. 
    Jean-Francois Clervoy finished with a show of public spaceflight, 
He hopes rides into space will be more open and available to the 
general public. He showed examples of current and future plans for 
suborbital, zero-g, ISS visits. 
    The evening closed with a reception of juices in an adjacent room. 
The audience thinned out quickly but most of the astronomy group 
discussed assorted space and astronomy topics with Clervoy.