317 Portuguese applied to become astronauts
The European Space Agency has received more than 22 thousand applications for the position of astronaut. 317 Portuguese people, 61 of whom are women, entered into the selection process.
The data is still preliminary, but the figures that the European Space Agency released this Wednesday, 23 June, show that 317 Portuguese applicants have joined the running. In total, more than 22 thousand people applied for one of the six open positions of ESA astronaut, which represents a 37.2% increase over the most recent ESA astronaut selection process, which took place in 2008 and drew 8,413 applications.
Compared to that competition 13 years ago, the number of female candidates also rose from 15.3% to 24% of the total number of applications, and this trend was observable in Portugal as well. Of the 317 Portuguese candidates, 61 – that is, 19.1% – are women.
“When compared to the 2008 figures, we see that Portugal had an increase of more than 50% in the overall number of candidates, which is significant – but perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the number of Portuguese women who want to be astronauts has doubled, which makes us very happy,” exclaimed Hugo Costa, member of the board of the Portuguese Space Agency (Portugal Space).
France, Germany and Italy make up the top three countries with the most applicants, which Portugal also appearing toward the top of the table, occupying the 11th place among the 25 member states. “We believe that these numbers are the result of the growth of space activities in Portugal, which increases the sector’s attraction – but they’re also a reflection o the excellent quality of human resources coming out of national universities, people in search of really extraordinary challenges. The numbers are undoubtedly an encouragement for the future of space in Portugal”, says Costa.
He recalls that in this contest there are vacancies for two groups of astronauts, “career astronauts and project astronauts, so the increase in the number of national candidates also increases the chances that we will have an astronaut from Portugal.”
The current astronaut selection process will go down in history as the first in which a position was designated for an astronaut with a physical disability. This position drew applications from 257 people, among whom 197 were men, 60 were women, and four were Portuguese. The ESA foresees that the future parastronaut will work with the Agency in evaluating adaptations necessary so that future astronauts with disabilities can serve as professional members of space missions.
The applications will first be evaluated on the basis of documentation submitted, from the medical report to the application form and the completed evaluation questionnaire. Candidates will be informed at the end of each stage whether they will be able to advance to the next phase, and the process promises to be extensive, since the future ESA astronauts will only be announced at the end of 2022.