ESA is looking for new astronauts more than 10 years later: these are the requirements to become one of the chosen ones
The European Space Agency (ESA) look for new astronauts with which to travel to the Moon, the International Space Station or even in the future participate in any of the missions to Mars. This is the first time since 2009 that ESA has searched for astronauts. At that time, more than 10,000 candidates were selected, of which only six were finally chosen. More than ten years later, it is time to “ensure the continuity of the astronaut corps and allow a transfer of knowledge”, as explained Jan Woerner, director of ESA.
The selection will begin on March 31, 2021 and will end on May 28. Once the candidates are chosen, they must pass a series of psychological, physical and medical tests to try to become one of the few chosen. Between four and six astronauts to be officially announced in October 2022.
What does ESA ask to become an astronaut?
Becoming an astronaut is not an easy task. Since 1978, only three times have they accepted new candidates. The latest arrivals were elected in 2009, who this year will have their first mission to the ISS. ESA is looking for candidates with different profiles, but to be chosen, all of them must meet a series of minimum requirements.
In order to participate, you must be a citizen of one of the member or associated countries of ESA and you must have at least a Master in Physics, Medicine, Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Engineering or have the title of experimental test pilot. Candidates must have at least three years of professional experience and be fluent in English (CEFR C1), with an additional language being recommended.
Of those elected on previous occasions, the vast majority had been military pilots, but it is not an essential requirement. Yes they must present a Class 2 certificate issued by an aviation medical examiner showing they are medically qualified to obtain a Private Pilot License (PPL).
Samantha Cristoforetti, the only woman chosen in the class of 2009, explains that “it is a dream come true. It brings together many of my passions: science and technology, complex machines, demanding operating environments, international teams, physical fitness, public outreach. And, for Of course, once in a while you can take a rocket ride to work! ” In this new promotion, ESA will try to proactively seek more female astronauts.
The astronauts will be trained in Cologne, Germany, at ESA’s European Astronaut Center, along with other professionals. As described by the Agency, candidates are not closely tied to a mission and they usually collaborate with other centers and organizations such as Roscosmos in Russia or NASA and SpaceX in the USA.
Currently, only seven astronauts are active at ESA: Samantha Cristoforetti (Italy), Alexander Gerst (Germany), Matthias Maurer (Germany), Andreas Mogensen (Denmark), Luca Parmitano (Italy), Tim Peake (UK) and Thomas Pesquet (France). In the past, Spain had representation with Pedro Duque, current Minister of Science and Technology, but at the moment there is no Spanish astronaut.
On March 31, the technical details of the candidacy will be announced, but astronauts are required a considerable knowledge and experience in circumstances of high stress and pressure, usually away from their social circle for long periods.
Some of the requirements that will be assessed or tests that must be passed are the following:
- Moderate and intense physical effort: from walking, running, standing, lifting heavy objects, bending over, crawling and being exposed to inclement weather.
- Pass a swimming test
- Parabolic flight operations to simulate microgravity
- Prolonged training under water (up to 8 hours a day), using SCUBA equipment or spacesuit.
- Driving license
- Ease of teamwork and in tight spaces
- Experience in risky activities or with high personal exposure
ESA will train all astronauts equally, regardless of gender. The next missions that are underway will be in the low orbit of the Earth and the Moon, with the goal in mind of reaching the surface of Mars. On the International Space Station, these astronauts will be required to carry out scientific experiments (fundamental research in human physiology, biology, physical sciences) and technology demonstrations (applied research) until participation in maintenance activities.
The physical state is one of the aspects to take into account. Because of this, ESA will only accept candidates under 50. In addition to being able to pass the flight medical certificate, candidates may not have any relevant illness and must maintain good health. They must also have perfect 20/20 vision, either naturally or corrected.
In addition to those chosen as ESA fixed astronauts, the European Space Agency plans to hire about 20 reserve astronauts for specific missions. As of the end of March, send applications. Many have dreamed of becoming an astronaut. One of those unique opportunities will open up in the coming months.
Image | Samantha Cristoforetti