In collaboration with le Parisien Magazine / Aujourd’hui-en-France Magazine
It has been over a month since I entered the International Space Station. Even though I am well aware of how lucky I am to be up here, I do not consider it a holiday. The space agencies as well as my fellow astronauts count on me to realise tens of scientific experiments, to advance research, so we have no time to lie around.
In the morning, my alarm clock rings at 06:00. In the evening, we stop working at about 19:30. We have dinner, call our families, send emails… before you know it, it is 22:30 and time to go to bed. Given the busy schedule, it is difficult to make time for games on the Space Station. I always find a few minutes here or there to entertain myself however! It is important for me to recharge my batteries this way.
Since we move around a lot in the Station, there is a game that we all play: stunts in microgravity. Whenever I do pirouettes or fly backwards I speed up a bit. There is a big plank in one of the laboratories that I use as a slide for fun. It is silly really, but it makes all of us laugh. Of course, we are not in a holiday camp. Do not forget that Peggy Whitson is 20 years older than me and that Shane Kimbrough is a colonel in the US army… It is unlikely that I will play pranks on them by, for example, hiding their underwear.
That is something I could easily have done with my buddies from the class of 2009 (the other European astronauts that were selected at the same time as me), but I do not allow myself such pranks here. At least, I haven’t yet. I do not want to offend anyone. That is why I have not yet dared play with the rugby ball I have up here. With all this expensive equipment all around me, cables and computers everywhere, I think it might annoy the control center. So instead, I play with apples!
Of course, there are some calmer games on the Station. Before going into space, I asked a baskeball video game to be installed on my tablet. I thought they would forget but they did not. Whenever I have a little time, I shoot some hoops. I have to admit that I miss playing basketball for real. On Earth I play it regularly. I also love beach volleyball, football and squash…
Whenever there is something to win, I join in immediately. A quick game of monopoly or applying to become an astronaut amongst 8 400 candidates, it is the same thing to me – competition is what drives me. I have always been that way. Regardless of whether my competitors are family or friends, when I play, I do not hold back. So, when we get around to organising the first card game in the Space Station, I know I will win.
It is not hard to find games in the International Space Station. In one corner, there is a box marked “games”. While I have not had a look inside yet, I imagine there are some funny knick-knacks inside. Other than that, we have many Sudoku and crossword puzzles… Nothing crazy, but enough for a distraction. I brought a deck of cards – not so much to play Snap or Pairs or Black Jack, but at some point I would like to show my colleagues some magic tricks. It is a bit of a silly passion, I know, but I stand by it.
I also packed a pair of dice in my luggage. Again, they are not really there to play with – it would be too difficult in microgravity anyway – but I took them as a kind of ‘totem’. When I was an adolescent, I bought the dice in Madagascar to not get bored while waiting for transport. Ever since I carry them with me for good luck. It will be crazy to say that they have been to space.
I suppose my favourite game is gazing at the earth. My game is to try to guess which countries, oceans or cities we are flying over. Everything is right in front of us, we just have to figure out what is where. Unfortunately, I am not very good yet. I even confused Rome with Lyon. So imagine what might happen when we pass over Tajikistan! The great thing is, at the end of my six-month mission I will no doubt know every corner of our planet by heart.