Astronauts wanted: ESA opens applications


Applications are now open for The European Space Agency’s astronaut core, the first time vacancies have been published in over a decade. Anyone with appropriate high level qualifications is invited to apply.

To find out more about the astronaut core and what is involved in becoming a space traveller, visit the European Space Agency Your Way To Space website, where there is an astronaut manual.

Applications close on 28 May 2021. Astronaut candidates are expected to have a higher level university degree, be healthy and be ready to work as part of a team and communicate with the public.

Those selected to go to space by ESA may go much further than any European astronaut before them as ESA has an agreement with NASA to fly to the upcoming Lunar Gateway by the end of the decade.

ESA is involved in the NASA lunar gateway construction, including building major components for the orbiting laboratory, that will see a space station built in orbit around the Moon.

The gateway is part of the NASA Artemis mission, that will see the first woman and next man land on the Moon at some point between 2024 and 2026, then future, sustainable lunar exploration developed by 2030.

The Gateway will be an outpost orbiting the Moon that provides vital support for a sustainable, long-term human return to the lunar surface, as well as a staging point for deep space exploration.

Illustration of the Gateway. Built with commercial and international partners, the Gateway is critical to sustainable lunar exploration and will serve as a model for future missions to Mars.

The 2021 European Space Agency astronaut cohort are likely to be among those selected to travel to the Moon – both to the Gateway station and to the lunar surface in the coming decade.

‘Astronauts will fly further away from Earth than anybody has ever been’ when they go to the Gateway as it will be further from Earth than the Moon, says Frank De Winne from the ESA astronaut training centre.

‘The first five to ten years will see astronauts fly to the ISS, but after that there will be opportunities to fly to the Moon and further than the Moon,’ 

Members of this intake may even lead European missions to Mars before the end of the next decade or the decade after, following in the footsteps of NASA Artemis astronauts, expected to land by 2035.

Thomas Pesquet, ESA astronaut from the class of 2009, said not applying in ESA’s last selection round would have been “the biggest mistake of my life”.

ESA director of human and robotic exploration David Parker says the development of new human-rated spacecraft present even more opportunities for European astronauts.

Including chances to travel to the International Space Station and beyond, as the Agency enters a new decade of space exploration.

“Not only will we continue to live and work in low Earth orbit on board the Space Station for perhaps another 10 years, we also have concrete opportunities to fly astronauts to new destinations,” he says.

ESA has issued three calls for astronauts since 1978, with the most recent selection taking place in 2008-09.

Now the multi national agency plans to recruit an estimated four new astronauts in 2021-22, to take part in its future activities in space.

Any citizen from one of ESA’s Member States (Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom) and Associate Members (Slovenia and Latvia) can apply.

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