Applications are open now for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) first astronaut selection in over a decade.

Vacancy notices for Astronaut and Astronaut (with a physical disability) have been posted to with applications closing on May 28 2021. The site also includes important information to be considered available in the Astronaut Applicant Handbook.

Pesquet: “Apply, apply, apply”

Thomas Pesquet, of NASA’s class of 2009, urged those who met the minimum requirements to make sure they applied by the closing date. Pesquet said not applying in ESA’s last selection round would have been “the biggest mistake of my life”.

“The most selective step is whether or not you are going to apply,” he explained. “There’s maybe one in a thousand people who are going to be picked up, but there is one in a million who will apply. So please, please, please – apply, apply, apply.”

Pesquet is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station for his second mission, known as Alpha, on April 22 2021. The first mission of ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer is scheduled for October, and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is expected to launch on her second mission in spring 2022.

New decade of space exploration

In a recent ESA Explores podcast interview, ESA director of human and robotic exploration David Parker said the development of new human-rated spacecraft presented even more opportunities for European astronauts to travel to the International Space Station and beyond, as the Agency entered 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 said.

“We need to keep our eyes on our aim of living and working on the lunar Gateway, then the Moon, and who knows – maybe even one day – the surface of Mars. This new group of recruits will help keep our astronaut corps at full strength, ready for an exciting future.”

Breaking down barriers to space

One new aspect of this astronaut selection campaign is the introduction of the ‘Parastronaut Fly! Feasibility Project’. To help increase accessibility of spaceflight for all qualified Europeans, ESA is seeking candidate(s) living with a specific physical disability to help assess the technologies and adaptations required to one day send an astronaut with a physical disability on a professional space mission.

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 go to space 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.”

For more on the 2021-22 ESA astronaut selection and how to apply click here

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