It’s official: from March 31 to May 28, 2021, you can apply at ESA to become an astronaut! More equal, more inclusive, this new campaign comes more than 10 years after the last wave of recruitment which made it possible to select Thomas Pesquet, a former airline pilot, from among the 6 candidates selected out of a total of just over 8,000. applicants. Between 4 and 6 future astronauts will be chosen. To this would be added the constitution of a reserve corps of 20 people.

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© ESA / D.Baumbach

The 2009 class of European astronauts. Top from left to right: Timothy Peake, Andreas Mogensen, Alexander Gers and Luca Parmitano. Bottom from left to right: Samantha Cristoforetti and Thomas Pesquet.

A more open recruitment campaign

This time, ESA intends to initiate a shift, more equal and in the image of society, by strongly encouraging women to apply. In 2008, only 1,430 women had taken the plunge, barely 1 in 5 applications. ” In the decade since the 2008-2009 selection, society’s expectations have changed on diversity and inclusion. (…) ESA cannot and will not ignore these changes Can be read on the website of the European Space Agency. Less than supermen – or superwomen – the ESA recalls that they seek above all to recruit talented people, whatever their sex or age, and of different origins.

But ESA intends to go even further with the recruitment of “parasatronauts”. More precisely, and this is the real novelty of this campaign, it includes a pilot project, with a view to opening the way to space for disabled astronauts. “It is above all a feasibility study, explains Guillaume Weerts, chief astronaut physician, in a campaign launch conference on February 16. How can we do to enhance diversity, to increase the number of people who can access space and thus participate in space exploration? This is the first time that the door has been opened to these questions; there are still many questions and too few answers “. For David Parker, Director of Human and Robotics Exploration at ESA, this is an innovation whose time has come.

For the first time, the European Space Agency will study the feasibility of recruiting “parastronauts”, in particular astronauts of small size, or with handicaps in the legs.

>> to see the infographic in large

Many people called, few elected: what is the profile sought?

The first requirement is to be part of one of the member countries or associated states of ESA. Then, to have a chance of being selected, you will have to follow an (almost) classic procedure … You will simply have to submit, on the dedicated ESA website, a CV and a cover letter in English, as well a medical certificate issued by an aviation doctor. A master’s level (or higher) in natural sciences (including biology, physical sciences, ocean, atmospheric and earth sciences or even medicine), engineering, mathematics or computer science, and at least 3 years of experience (in a laboratory, hospital or through research). In addition, fluency in English is essential; a good level in other languages ​​(and not necessarily Russian) remains an asset. Of course, you will need to show strong motivation and great curiosity, as well as a certain flexibility with regard to your schedule … Finally, as we can imagine, knowing how to stay calm under pressure is one of the great qualities expected.

Beyond the diplomas and technical skills, the age limit is pushed back to 50 years and you must, without being a great sportsman, have a good physical condition. If you pass this first stage of selection, it is not yet won: on the menu for the following months, psychological, psychometric and medical tests, as well as a series of individual interviews. The results will be announced at the end of this selection process in October 2022.

What will be the missions of this new generation of astronauts?

There you are! However, the flight to the International Station (ISS) will not necessarily be for now. In fact, there will be some basic training and education time at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany (this is when you will learn Russian). In order to allow future astronauts to adapt to the new challenges of space exploration, whether on the ground or in space, there will be no shortage of missions. Today, the role of an astronaut, in addition to being a space ambassador in his country, remains to venture beyond Earth, even to participate in human and robotic missions to the moon and , why not, to one day set foot on Mars. And indeed, the space program for the next few years is rather daring: in addition to the “usual” spacewalks and microgravity shoot experiments in the ISS (nearly 400 km from Earth), the second stop could well be the future lunar orbital station, the Gateway, whose commissioning (just under 400,000 km from our planet) is scheduled for 2025.

For all those who are still hesitating, Thomas Pesquet has a message for you. It will return to space for a second mission (called Alpha) aboard the ISS in April 2021.

You can also find all the information from ESA, available in English, here, and the campaign launch video, in French, here.

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