ESA seeks new generation of European astronauts
for a voyage to the Moon

The European Space Agency launches a new astronaut recruitment campaign. An emphasis on diversity leads ESA to launch the Feasibility Project
for admission of the Parastronaut, the first astronaut with some level of disability.

Thomas Pesquet was one of six astronauts selected by the European Space Agency in 2009. He made his first mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2016 and will return to space this year.

The European Space Agency is looking for the first European astronauts for a trip to the Moon. And one of them may be Portuguese. The selection process, which provides for the rejuvenation of the organization’s astronaut base, starts on March 31 and is open to all member states of the organization. 

In a series of six virtual press conferences, ESA will bring together astronauts, experts in human exploration and robotics, space medicine, astronaut training centers and human resource managers. The press conferences, which will give details of the selection process for new astronauts, will take place in five languages (English, French, German, Dutch, Italian and Spanish) and will take place between 12:00 and 15:30.

The applications will run from March 31 to May 28, 2021, and will allow the selection of new astronauts for the first time since 2009, in a procedure that will produce a generational change within the agency. The selection process requires the submission of an application through the ESA career website, and is divided into six phases that should be completed in October. 

“Thanks to a strong mandate from ESA Member States at the last Ministerial Council in 2019, Europe is taking its place at the heart of space exploration. To go where we have never gone before, we need to look further than before. This recruitment process is the first step, and I look forward to seeing the Agency develop in all areas of space exploration and innovation with our international partners in the coming years,” said ESA Director General Jan Wörner, quoted in a statement from the Agency.

This year David Parker, Director of Human Exploration and Robotics, hopes to attract more women: there were just 1,430 candidates out of 8,413 total applications in 2009. Parker recalls that “diversity in ESA should not only address the origin, age, experience or gender of our astronauts but perhaps also physical disabilities.” The Agency thus launches “the Astronaut Feasibility Project – an innovation whose time has come.” 

This pilot project will give the opportunity to pursue a career as an astronaut to part of society that has been excluded from space flight so far. For the first time in history, a space agency is taking on an inclusive project of this magnitude.

The astronaut recruitment campaign is part of a broader ESA strategy that aims to show that there is a high number of job opportunities within the organisation. ESA intends to recruit around 100 people annually over the next ten years.

10 of February, 2021