Léopold Eyharts is a Brigadier General in the French Air Force and an ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut.
Eyharts was born April 28, 1957, in Biarritz, France. After completing his basic academics, he joined the French Air Force Academy of Salon-de-Provence in 1977 to study aeronautical engineering. Eyharts graduated in 1979 as an engineer. By 1980 he became a fighter pilot and was sent to the Istres Air Force Base in France. Initially he was assigned to an operational jaguar squadron but by 1985 he had earned wing commander at Saint-Dizier Air Force Base.
The pilot continued to move up in his capabilities and by 1988 had graduated EPNER (French test pilot school) as a test pilot. With his new credentials in hand, he was assigned to the Bretigny flight test center outside of Paris. His role was to test the radar and equipment on a regular basis and to fly multiple types of aircraft for data collection. Some of the planes included the Mirage 2000, Alpha Jet, Mirage 3, Caravelle, and the C-160. During his time as a test pilot, Eyharts flew over 40 different air crafts.
The efforts of Eyharts were not unnoticed by the French Air Force with awards given including the Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur, the Chevalier of the Ordre National du Mérite, the Médaille d’Outre-Mer, the Silver National Defence Medal, the Cavalier of the Order of Courage (Russia), the Cavalier of the Order of Friendship (Russia), and The medal “For merits in development of space” (April 12, 2011) – for outstanding contribution to the development of international cooperation in manned space flight.
In 1990 the Centre National d’Études Spatiales took notice of Eyharts accomplishments and selected him as an astronaut candidate. He was assigned to support the Hermes spaceplane program managed by the Hermes Crew office in Toulouse.
He continued to be a test pilot at the CNES parabolic flights program. During that project he test-piloted an experimental aircraft (Caravelle) at the Bretigny Flight Test Center. The goal of the project was to provide a microgravity laboratory to the scientific community. Eyharts not only was in charge of this parabolic flight testing but also the Caravelle’s replacement, the Airbus A300 in 1994.
Eyharts remained actively looking for astronaut experience. He participated in the second European Space Agency astronaut selection and was chosen in 1992. Within the year he participated in an ESA evaluation of the Russian “Buran” Space Shuttle training in Moscow. He had the opportunity to fly the Tupolev 154 Buran, but only its in-flight simulator.
Finally in 1995, Eyharts was assigned to full spaceflight training as a back-up crew member for the “Cassiopeia” French-Russian space mission. Although fully trained, Eyharts did not participate on the flight that occurred August 1996.
His finally had his first spaceflight as a crew member of Pegase aboard the Soyuz TM-27in February of 1998. The mission flew to the Mir Space Station to perform various French experiments in the area of medical research, neuroscience, biology, fluid physics and technology. This CNES scientific space mission lasted three weeks to gather the materials data before returning to Earth after 20 days, 18 hours and 20 minutes in space.
Once again making an international appearance as an astronaut, Eyharts was assigned by the European Space Agency to train at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas in August of 1998. His purpose in travel was to participate in the NASA Astronaut Candidate Training. The areas of study were scientific and technical briefings, water and wilderness survival techniques, Shuttle and International Space Station systems, physiological training and ground school to prepare for T-38 flight training.
He served in technical assignments until assigned to a space flight in February of 2008. As a crew member of STS-122, Eyharts launched on February 7 and eventually docked on the International Space Station. After joining Expedition 16, he assisted in the installation and configuration of the Columbus European Laboratory Module (CELM). After completing numerous experiments, he joined the crew of mission STS-123 and returned to Earth in March of 2008.
After 68 days, 21 hours and 31 minutes logged in space, Eyharts remains an active ESA astronaut.
ImageCaption: Official portrait image of ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts of France, mission specialist of w:STS-122. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia