HomeTechDiversity in space at the forefront as ESA announces new astronauts

Diversity in space at the forefront as ESA announces new astronauts

The European Space Agency has announced the first crop of new astronauts for over a decade (Picture: ESA)

The European Space Agency has revealed the next generation of astronauts following its first recruitment drive in over a decade.

When it was launched last year, over 22,000 applicants came forward with the hope of slipping the surly bonds of Earth.

Now, Europe’s answer to Nasa has revealed the Astronaut Class of 2022 which includes career astronauts, members for the astronaut reserve and astronauts with a physical disability for a feasibility project.

Two of those chosen, Rosemary Coogan and John McFall, are from the UK.

The ESA specifically sought out people with physical disabilities, for a first-of-its-kind effort to determine what adaptations would be necessary to space stations to accommodate them.

McFall won a bronze medal in the 100m at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing and will take part in the Parastronaut Feasibility Project to improve the understanding of, and overcome, the barriers space flight presents for astronauts with a physical disability.  

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To date, no major Western space agency has ever put a parastronaut into space, according to the ESA.

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti said: ‘We did not evolve to go to space so when it comes to space travel, we are all disabled.

‘What brings us from being disabled to being able to go to space is just technology.

‘This is a feasibility study and we’re going to look into what exactly is needed, how much it will cost – but that’s the goal.’

The ESA received 22,523 applications from people wanting to be astronauts (Picture: ESA)

Dan Huot, a spokesman for Nasa’s Johnson Space Center, home to the American agency’s astronaut corps, said ‘we at Nasa are watching ESA’s parastronaut selection process with great interest.’

The ESA’s groundbreaking hiring campaign didn’t specifically address ethnic diversity, but stressed the importance of ‘representing all parts of our society.’

The European agency received applications from all 25 member nations and associate members, though most came from France, Germany, Britain and Italy.

The two-day ESA council running Tuesday to Wednesday in Paris also saw France, Germany and Italy announcing an agreement Tuesday for a new-generation European space launcher project as part of apparent efforts to better compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and other rocket programs in the US and China.

What does it take to be an astronaut?

These astronauts could one day set foot on the moon (Getty)

Nasa recently outlined some of the preferential skills for would-be moonwalkers.

Apparently you’ll need technical and operational skill as well as ‘being fun’ and a team player.

Those are the soft skills.

Some of the slightly more elite requirements include a master’s degree in a STEM field from an accredited institution or two years work towards a Ph.D in a related science, tech, engineering or maths field.

Alternatively, you could get by with a doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine degree. If none of that suits you, then Nasa will also consider anyone that’s completed a nationally recognised test pilot school program.


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