Volunteers wanted to travel to Mars. This could be the summary of the new call for astronauts that the European Space Agency has announced today. They are mainly looking for women due to the bloody lack of females: a single woman among the seven active astronauts and only two more since the beginning of the program at the end of the 70s.
It is the first time in 11 years that the European agency open a public call like this . "Now is the time to hire new astronauts," said Jan Woerner, ESA Director General, during a virtual press conference today. This new fifth "will ensure the continuity of the astronaut corps in the future and will allow a transfer of knowledge between the current group of astronauts and the new ones," he stressed. The three main destinations will be the International Space Station, the Moon and, much later, Mars, he said.
The agency is looking for candidates with a master's degree and about three years of experience in natural sciences, medicine, engineering, mathematics, computer science or military pilots. of tests. It is also essential to be a citizen of an ESA member country or an Associated State, know English and an additional language, be prepared to work after hours and remain calm under pressure. For the first time open an additional call for people with disabilities, the "parastronauts". The call will open on March 31 and will close on May 28 and will be done through the agency's employment website.
The first European astronauts to travel to the Moon and step on its surface will probably come from the selected group
"This is a long process, full of stress and the chances of success are very low," explained pilot and engineer Samantha Cristoforetti , the only active astronaut. "But this is a possibility of making an amazing journey to learn about oneself regardless of whether you are chosen or not," he added.
Probably the first European astronauts to travel to the Moon and step on its surface will be from the selected group. Europe collaborates with the United States in the construction of a new space station in the orbit of the Moon. This base may play a decisive role in the future manned missions to Mars that the US plans for the 2030s. This country has already declared that it wants the first person to step on the Moon again to be a woman and it is possible that too whoever does the same on Mars on an as yet undated mission. Europe is likely to be able to place some of its astronauts on spacecraft to the Moon and Mars.
ESA plans to recruit four to six fixed astronauts, said David Parker, ESA's chief of human and robotic exploration. These will be the astronauts who do the most complex missions, such as traveling to the Moon, Parker stressed. It is also expected to sign another 20 reserve astronauts who will be able to participate in specific missions if needed.
The parastronauts project aims to demonstrate the possibility of sending people with different capacities into space, Parker said. "We are looking for an individual with sufficient qualification to be an astronaut, but who does not have the usual physical abilities that are required," he detailed.
The long selection process will conclude in October next year after several phases of psychological, medical and two rounds of personal interviews. The previous call was opened in 2008 and more than 10,000 candidates were shortlisted. Among all of them, ESA chose 818 for the first round of selection, based on computer psychological tests. Of all of them, only 192 went to a second round of personal psychological evaluations carried out in Germany. About 80 went to the third phase: medical tests. About forty candidates went on to the last round of personal interviews. The six chosen were the Italian Cristoforetti, her compatriot Luca Parmitano, the German Alexander Gerst, the Danish Andreas Mogensen, the British Tim Peake, and the French Thomas Pesquet. All but the Dane have been military pilots. In 2015 they were joined by the German Matthias Maurer, a materials science expert with no military aerial training.
Cristoforetti is the only woman in the European astronaut corps, and the 59th woman among the more than 530 astronauts who have flown to date. to space. There was only one European cosmonaut before her, French doctor Claudie Haigneré, who later became her country's research minister between 2002 and 2005.
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