December 3, 2023
Who was the first Brazilian astronaut?

Who was the first Brazilian astronaut?

More than 560 people have already gone into space, penetrating the Earth’s atmosphere. Among them is a Brazilian who became an astronaut 15 years ago and had the opportunity Earth Curvature Monitoring View from the International Space Station (ISS). But who was the first Brazilian astronaut?

In 2006, the centenary mission, the result of a partnership between Brazilian space agency (AEB) and the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos), flew into space Bridge landmarks, Minister of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications (MCTI), and the only Brazilian astronaut to have visited the International Space Station so far. During his stay he conducted some scientific experiments in the microgravity environment developed by Brazilian institutions.

The first Brazilian astronaut

Long before I took command of the MCTI in 2018, Bridge landmarks He followed a professional path that led him to become the first Brazilian to leave Earth. Born in Bauru, São Paulo, Pontes holds a Bachelor’s degree in Aviation Technology from the Air Force Academy (AFA).

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Marcos Pontes is the 22nd Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation and the first Brazilian astronaut (Image: Reproduction/EBC)

Additionally, he holds a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Technical Institute of Aviation (ITA) in São José dos Campos, São Paulo, and a Master’s degree in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in California. In his stint as a pilot with the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), Pontes amassed more than 2,000 hours of flights on 25 different ships.

But, despite all their technical and theoretical qualifications, none of them awarded Pontes the title of cosmonaut – a training he would have achieved only with NASA.

Marcos Pontes was trained by NASA

Thanks to the Intergovernmental Agreement on the International Space Station, which was established in 1998 to ensure commitment among the fifteen countries interested in participating in the construction of the orbital laboratory, Brazil had the right to a Brazilian application to the space program from the United States of America. In June of the same year, NASA selected Pontes.

Marcos Pontes joined NASA’s astronaut training class in 1998 (Image: Reproduction/Public Domain)

However, before graduating as a real astronaut, he had to undergo a series of mandatory trainings. Then, in August 1998, Pontes began his preparations at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Agency.

There, he was part of NASA’s Astronaut Training Group 17 – a class also known as “Penguins.” In December 2000, at the end of this preparatory course, the Brazilian was finally declared an astronaut for the US Space Agency, preparing for takeoff into space.

NASA’s group of 17 astronauts consisted of 31 candidates, including the Brazilian astronaut (Image: Reproduction/Public Domain)

Initially, Pontes was flying to the International Space Station in 2001 to participate in the construction of the orbital station. The purpose of this trip will be the transportation and installation of a Brazilian responsibility unit, called the Express Pallet. Then a series of delays on the part of Brazil led to the mission being postponed to 2003.

As the new date approaches, Brazil is still facing financial and technical difficulties to deliver the unit it has committed to building – problems that indicate further delays. Inevitably, the mission was suspended in part due to The tragic accident of the space shuttle Columbia, in February 2003.

Enter the percentile task

NASA’s space shuttle was the primary means of launching astronauts into space at the time, but the 2003 accident prompted the US agency to indefinitely suspend all scheduled flights. Once again, Brazil will have to wait for another opportunity to bypass the Earth’s atmosphere.

From left, Brazilian astronaut Marcos Pontes, followed by NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams and astronaut Pavel Vinogradov (Image: reproduction/Public Domain)

Then, in October 2005, AEB Roscosmos signed a contract under which the Brazilian agency will invest 10 million US dollars to fly on the ship Naveh Rossa Soyuz. Thus, the Centennial mission, whose name refers to the centenary of the first manned flight of an aircraft – 14bis, whose flight was carried out by fellow Brazilian Santos Dromon, appeared in October 1906.

Pontes was then set up in the City of Stars, which is the name of the Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow. On March 29, 2006, the crew of Pontes, Jeffrey Williams (NASA astronaut) and cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov were launched into space aboard the Soyuz TMA-8 spacecraft from the Baikonur launch center in Kazakhstan.

The Centenary Mission Badge was produced by a partnership between MCTI, the Special Secretariat for Communications (SECOM) and AEB (Image: Public Domain)

The launch was successful, and for the first time a Brazilian reached Earth orbit. Pontes took with him about 15 kg of AEB payloads, which included eight scientific experiments carried out by Brazilian universities and research institutes, which the astronaut will experience during his stay on the International Space Station.

Studies have ranged from seed germination to damage assessment and DNA repair – all under the season’s microgravity conditions. Some of the educational projects that Pontes implemented in space, such as planting bean seeds, were followed online by students from schools in São José dos Campos, while conducting the same experiments on Earth.

Soyuz TMA-8 spacecraft launched from Kazakhstan (Image: Reproduction/Public Domain)

Marcos Pontes was the second of the three crew members to land on the International Space Station, representing our nation with the Brazilian flag he held in his hands — and who accompanied him throughout the mission, until his return to Earth.

back to earth

In all, the centenary mission lasted just over 9 days – Pontes spent two of them aboard the spacecraft – a period that allowed the Brazilian astronaut to orbit the Earth 155 times. The Brazilian cosmonaut returned to the planet on April 8, 2006 aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-7 spacecraft, accompanied by two crews from Expedition 12: Russian Valery Tokarev and American William MacArthur.

Marcos Pontes landed on April 8, 2006, accompanied by two other crew members from Expedition 12 (Photo: reproduction/Public Domain)

After landing in Kazakhstan, they had to go through a period of gravity readjustment – after all, it took nearly ten days with their bodies experiencing a feeling of weightlessness. in your book mission accomplished (2001), published by publisher Chris McHillard, Pontes reported on his experience as the first and only Brazilian astronaut—until then.

Who will be the next Brazilian astronaut?

In an interview with Canaltech Awarded in July 2021, UEFA President, Carlos Moura, You mentioned that the Agency’s current budget does not allow for the planning of new activities Space like the one starring Marcos Pontes. “Although manned activities in our space program have not yet resumed, there are a lot of people motivated by the involvement of humans in missions of this kind,” he added.

Left, Marcos Pontes, and right, NASA Administrator during the signing of the intent for Brazil to participate in the Artemis Agreement, in December 2020 (Photo: Transcript/US Embassy Brasilia/NASA)

More than 15 years after this unprecedented feat, Pontes remains the only Brazilian astronaut in history. Will it take long for this to change? I hope not – at least because in June 2021, a . file was released MCTI signed Brazil’s participation in the Artemis Agreements, a commitment to collaborate with NASA to return humanity to the Moon, through the Artemis Program, which provides human exploration of our natural satellite in a permanent and sustainable manner.

Source: NASA; AEB; space facts