What do you do? Like most astronauts, I'm not assigned to a space mission at the moment. Instead, I'm working on the ground with ESA engineers on a huge resupply spaceship. I have had three space flights. The last one was an eight-day Nasa mission in 1999 for an emergency repair of the Hubble space telescope. When I'm on a short-duration flight like that, my main task is to operate complex machines for up to 16 hours a day. It's very high pressure. I have a strong sense of responsibility because I'm the last in a chain of thousands of people on the ground, who count on me to succeed. Going to space is just as exciting each time I go. I feel a very strong emotion of doing something extraordinary. I get it every time I look at the Earth. I realise how beautiful and fragile life is. Some astronauts get goosebumps, others become tearful.
How did you get the job?
I've been an astronaut for 20 years. I spent seven years at the French Space Agency, and was selected to join ESA in 1992. I was seconded to Nasa for nine years and I returned to Europe in 2001.
Does reality match the dream?
Yes - in the sense that you're watching the Earth from far away and floating in zero gravity. I would not change my job for anything in the world.