Want to be an Astronaut?

How many kids have you heard say, “When I grow up I want to be an astronaut!”? Maybe you said it yourself. Well now could be your chance, as the European Space Agency (ESA) have announced that they are recruiting the next group to Join European Astronaut Corps. This is the first time since 2008 that they have recruited astronauts. The European Astronaut Corps are based in the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. It consists of 7 active members, only one of which is female. The lack of diversity amongst the astronauts is something the ESA are keen to address. As well as addressing the gender balance, they are conducting a study into the feasibility of recruiting a parastronaut. This is the first time in the world that people with a physical disability will be considered for astronaut training and is a fantastic step forward to opening space for everyone.

What Does an Astronaut Do?

We’re all familiar with the idea that astronauts work in space but what do they do on a day to day basis and what do they do when they are on the ground? An astronaut working aboard the International Space Station has a busy schedule. The day starts early with a morning meeting with the crew and mission control. The day is then filled with preplanned tasks such as cleaning, maintenance, running experiments and PR activities. The astronauts also need to workout for 2 hours a day to maintain their health as well as eat their meals.

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano on a spacewalk. Credit: ESA

When they are on the ground, the astronauts spend their time on a wide variety of tasks. They often spend time training for the next mission as well as assisting ground crews and crew aboard the space station. Astronauts often serve as the cap com in the mission control room. This is the position who communicates messages to the crew. Astronauts also help develop processes and procedures, perform education and out outreach duties and assist with public relations.

The Application Prcocess

The application process is particularly tough, as are the requirements to apply. You need;

  • To be a citizen of an ESA member state or associate member.
  • Hold at least a Master’s degree in natural sciences (including physical sciences, Earth, atmosphere or ocean sciences, biological sciences, medicine), engineering, mathematics, computer sciences; or an experimental test pilot degree.
  • Three years post grad experience.
  • To be fluent in English.
  • Be comfortable with irregular working hours, flexibility with place of work and being away from home for extended periods.

Applications open 31st March and will remain open until 28th May 2021. Once applications close they are screened and a selection of candidates will undergo psychological testing, psychometric testing and medical screening. Those remaining at this point will undergo two rounds of interviews before the appointments are made and announced in October 2022.

Selection process for astronaut recruitment 2021 Credit: ESA

What’s Involved in Training?

Each astronaut goes through basic training and this takes one year at the European Astronaut Centre. This training includes studying the ESA, International Space Station, space systems, space vehicles, Russian and survival skills.

The next stage of training is called pre assignment raining and takes place at various locations such as the Johnson Space Center in Houston and Star City in Moscow. This training includes medical training, training in spacewalks and maintenance.

The final phase of training takes place once a mission has been assigned to an astronaut and the content is specific to the mission.

Where Will These Astronauts Travel?

At the moment most European Astronauts work on the the ISS and travel there using the Russian Soyuz launch vehicle. This April, Thomas Pesquet will be first European to go to space on Space Xs Dragon capsule. In the future it is likely that ESA astronauts will travel to the new Lunar Gateway on down to the Lunar Surface aboard the NASA SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. ESA are building the Service module that will take the Orion Capsule to the Moon and maybe one day, Mars.


The applications open on 31st March 2021 and if you have what it takes you can apply here. https://www.esa.int/About_Us/Careers_at_ESA/ESA_Astronaut_Selection

It’s a job that’s out of this world..(sorry, I couldn’t resist)!

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