European Space Agency recruiting new astronaut candidates

European Space Agency is recruiting new astronauts for the first time in 11 YEARS and is ‘strongly encouraging’ women to apply

  • This is the first time in more than a decade that the astronaut pool has opened up
  • Few specific details have been released about the requirements for astronauts
  • The ESA website says astronauts are likely to need a high level of education
  • Scientists and engineers from across Europe and the UK can apply for the role
  • The vacancy will be open between March 31 and May 28 

The hunt Is on to find a new group of adventurous that will take to the stars as part of the next generation of European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts.  

This is the first time in 11 years that the pan-European agency has put the call out for new astronaut candidates, and they are ‘strongly encouraging’ women to apply. 

These recruits will work alongside the ESA’s existing astronauts as Europe enters a new era of space exploration – including possible future missions to the Moon.

Very few specific details about the recruitment drive, including how many are being recruited, have been announced – more details are expected next week.

The agency is strongly encouraging women to apply for a place on the new team, as it seeks to expand gender diversity in its ranks.

The European Space Agency is on the hunt for new astronauts (ESA/PA)

The vacancy runs from March 31 to May 28 and ESA will only consider applications submitted to its career website within those eight weeks.

After that, the six-stage selection process will start, which is expected to be completed in October 2022.

ESA director general Jan Wörner, said: ‘Thanks to a strong mandate from ESA member states at Space19+, our Ministerial Council in 2019, Europe is taking its place at the heart of space exploration.’

‘To go farther than we ever have before, we need to look wider than we ever have before,’ he added.

‘This recruitment process is the first step and I look forward to watching the agency develop across all areas of space exploration and innovation, with our international partners, in the years to come.’ 

The UK is a major contributor to the European Space Agency and remains a member of the non-EU agency.

British funded astronaut Tim Peake, who is involved in the recruitment drive, is expected to go back to the International Space Station on a future mission – and may even travel to the Moon later in the decade.

As the UK is still a member of ESA British applicants are able to apply for the chance to be part of the new group of astronauts.

British astronaut Tim Peake is involved in the recruitment drive for new astronauts to join the European Space Agency cohort – he could be returning to the ISS in the coming years

As well as seeking to improve diversity within its ranks by encouraging more female astronaut candidates, Wörner says it is also examining how to get more people with disabilities into space – or at least involved in space travel. 

LUNAR GATEWAY: A STEPPING STONE TO THE MOON  

NASA is leading the development of the Lunar Gateway space-station – with support from ESA, JAXA and others.

NASA is leading the development of the Lunar Gateway space-station – with support from ESA, JAXA and others

While it is in orbit around the Moon, it is part of a long-term project to send humans to Mars.

The crew-tended spaceport will orbit the Moon and serve as a ‘gateway to deep space and the lunar surface,’ NASA has said.

The first modules of the station could be completed as soon as 2024.

European astronauts are expected to be involved in missions to the gateway – and eventually to the lunar surface.

David Parker, ESA director of human and robotic exploration, said: ‘Representing all parts of our society is a concern that we take very seriously.

‘Diversity at ESA should not only address the origin, age, background or gender of our astronauts, but also perhaps physical disabilities.

‘To make this dream a reality, alongside the astronaut recruitment I am launching the Parastronaut Feasibility Project – an innovation whose time has come.’

Specific details of the requirements – and the full vacancy notice – have not been finalised by ESA yet, but they will work with the existing group.

There will be no upper age limit but according to the Telegraph, sources have suggested there could be an upper limit of about 50 – depending on health.

According to the ESA page ‘how to become an astronaut’ the process is ‘neither simple nor straightforward’ as there are no schools or university courses.

While there isn’t an undergraduate degree in ‘astronaut studies’, ESA says a ‘high level of education in scientific or technical disciplines’ is usually required. 

‘Astronauts need to be able to apply their considerable knowledge and skills to the tasks for which they have been trained,’ ESA wrote. 

‘Previous experience with aircraft operations is a bonus, particularly if it involved responsible tasks such as being a test pilot or flight engineer. 

‘The more skills and experience an applicant has the better, as this will increase their ability to undertake a variety of tasks.’ 

Applications for the role of ESA astronaut open on March 31 and close eight weeks later on May 28. 

European astronaut ‘could be on Moon mission by the end of the decade’

A European astronaut could be on a mission to the Moon by the end of the decade, the head of the European Space Agency (ESA) has said.

ESA director-general Jan Woerner said he prefers to think of missions to the Earth’s satellite as going ‘forward’ to the Moon, rather than ‘going back’ to it.

He added that he thinks it is unlikely people will be on the surface of the Moon in 2024, and that it will probably take a couple more years.

Speaking at a press briefing, Prof Woerner said: ‘What I heard all the time – also during the Trump administration – but what we heard from Nasa is that the schedule to go to the Moon and land people on the surface of the Moon in 2024 is really difficult.

‘Therefore I believe that now, with all these changes, the pressure is a little bit off, and therefore I believe there will be humans on the surface of the Moon soon.

‘And maybe – I don’t have a crystal ball – but let’s say I’m sure that in 2025/2026 there will be something. 

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