Claudie Haigneré, First European Female Astronaut

Claudie Haigneré  is a French scientist, doctor, astronaut and politician. From her space missions to her contributions to science, her life is a testament to hard work, dedication and passion for exploration. A role model and inspiration to many, her impressive achievements and exploits have undoubtedly had an impact on the world of science and space exploration.

Born into a family that valued education and encouraged her to pursue her interests, she developed a passion for science from an early age. She passed her baccalauréat at the age of fifteen, and went on to study medicine. She attended the prestigious Pierre et Marie Curie University, graduating with a degree in rheumatology, and went on to obtain a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Paris, thus consolidating her position as a seasoned scientist.

What's more, she is a member of the French Academy of Technologies since 2002, a member of the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices, the French Academy of sports, the French overseas Academy of sciences, and the French national Air and Space Academy. She has also been patron of the French Space City in Toulouse since 1996.

After completing her studies, she worked as a doctor for 8 years in the rheumatology clinic of the rehabilitation department at Cochin Hospital in Paris. She then worked for six years at the CNRS Neurosensory Physiology Laboratory in Paris, where she prepared scientific experiments in the field of human physiology and carried out research into the adaptation of sensory-motor systems in microgravity.

In 1985, Haigneré was selected from over 1000 applicants as one of six new astronaut trainees for the French space agency CNES. She underwent rigorous training, including survival, navigation and piloting sessions, as well as acquiring the skills required for space missions.

From 1990 to 1992, she was in charge of physiology and space medicine programs at the CNES Life Sciences Division in Paris. She contributed to the direction of space research in this field, working closely with French and international laboratories. From 1989 to 1992, she was the scientific coordinator of the Franco-Russian Antares mission for life science experiments.

Her first space mission took place in 1996. She took part in the Cassiopée mission as flight engineer alongside two Russian cosmonauts. During this 16-day mission, Haigneré conducted experiments on the Russian space station Mir. Her work focused on human physiology and biology, providing valuable information for our understanding of the human body in space.

In 1998, she joined the City of Stars, aboard Mir, as alternate astronaut for the Franco-Russian Perseus mission. The mission began in February 1999. She underwent extensive training as a station flight engineer and Soyuz cosmonaut rescuer.

At the end of 1999, she joined the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Astronaut Corps in Cologne, Germany.

In 2001, she returned to space as part of the Andromeda mission, becoming the first European woman to visit the International Space Station (ISS). During this 10-day mission, as first flight engineer, she took part in several scientific experiments focusing on Earth observation, the sciences of life and matter, the study of the ionosphere and the effects of microgravity on human health.

In addition to her work as an astronaut, Haigneré also made major contributions to the fields of rheumatology and neuroscience. Her research has advanced our understanding of various pathologies, offering new perspectives and potential treatments.

Equally active in politics, she was French Minister for Research and New Technologies from 2002 to 2004. She then held the post of Minister for European Affairs from 2004 to 2005. Among her duties, she advocated increased investment in science, research and innovation, demonstrating her commitment to the advancement of knowledge.

Haigneré rejoined the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2009, after retiring from political life. She serves as advisor and ambassador for European space programs, and continues to inspire the next generation of scientists and astronauts, sharing her experiences and promoting the importance of space exploration. She also continues to contribute to the advancement of space exploration, using her wealth of experience and knowledge to promote European space programs and foster international cooperation.

From 2010 to 2015, she held the position of provisional administrator of "Universcience", a public institution resulting from the merger of the Palais de la découverte and the Cité des sciences et de l'industrie.

She is also a member of the honorary committee of the French Animal Law, Ethics and Science Foundation, and patron of Wings for Science, an association founded in 2008, whose mission is to promote scientific production, political action and education in favor of the environment.

A pioneer in the fields of science, space exploration and politics, her achievements as an astronaut, scientist and politician have earned her a place in history, demonstrating the power of perseverance and dedication to her passions. From her groundbreaking research in rheumatology and neuroscience to her missions aboard the Mir space station and the ISS, she has never ceased to push back the boundaries of human knowledge.

In recognition of her immense work, she was named Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour in 2011, and received the Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit in 2023.

She has also been awarded doctor honoris causa for a number of institutions such as the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (2003), the Faculty of Engineering of UMons (2008), Beihang University, in Beijing, and the Catholic University of Louvain (2019).

A role model for women in science and technology, Haigneré has also helped pave the way for greater equality between men and women in these fields. Her successes are a source of inspiration for young women and girls interested in science and technology, demonstrating that gender need not be an obstacle to realizing one's dreams.


© Article, modified on June 27, 2023, by Julie Poutrel and IA for Adama Toulon.