The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that it is preparing to recruit its first astronaut class in over a decade.
During a February 16 briefing, ESA officials announced that the agency is looking to select between four and six career astronauts and 20 astronaut reserves. In what will be a world first, the agency will also look to recruit its first parastronaut.
According to ESA, a parastronaut is an individual that is psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified but has a physical disability that would otherwise have disqualified them from becoming an astronaut.
“Right now we’re at step zero, the door is closed to such people,” said ESA’s director of human and robotic exploration, David Parker. “We want to change that. We want to go from zero to one.”
Applications for the 2021-2022 ESA astronaut selection process will open on March 31 and remain open until May 28. Applications must, at minimum, be a citizen of an ESA member or associate member state, speak fluent English, have or Masters or PhD in Medicine, engineering, mathematics, computer science, or the natural sciences.
Once the initial selection process is made, candidates will be put through a lengthy six-stage testing and interview process. ESA expects to announce its latest class of astronauts around October 2022.
As ESA enters one of the most eventful periods in its history, it’s newest batch of astronauts will have the chance to be a part of history. With its involvement with NASA’s lunar Gateway space station and Artemis program, ESA has secured several seats aboard Orion mission beyond low Earth orbit, a milestone that no European astronaut has ever achieved.