French astronaut Jean-Francious Clervoy talks to students at North Atlanta High School.

French astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy said his space fantasy is to someday know the landscape of the Earth so well that he can recognize any part of it from space.

“My fantasy as an astronaut is to know the Earth by heart,” he told students and parents at North Atlanta High School on April 27. “It is so beautiful you fall in love with your planet. You can’t get bored looking at it.”

Clervoy has flown three missions on U.S. space shuttles and helped repair the Hubble Space Telescope in space.

He told the Atlanta students that European astronauts must learn English and Russian, he said, because they may end up working with crews from either country.

Space shuttles contain 2.5 million parts and more than 1,000 levers in the cockpit to operate various systems, he said. “The first time I was in the cockpit, I thought I never will be able to learn this,” he said, “but I did.”

Asked what surprised him the most about space flight, he said it was how thin the layer of atmosphere was surrounding the Earth. “If you look at the Earth from far away, you realize the atmosphere is a thin, thin layer.”

He showed photographs of life in space, including ways the astronauts exercised, ate, washed and groomed themselves and slept in zero gravity.

“Living in space is like camping, except we cannot go outside the tent,” he said, “because it’s bad weather outside.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.