More than 600 young Portuguese want to be Astronauts for a Day

The third edition of the Portuguese Space Agency's initiative sets a new record for applications. A total of 634 students registered for the first phase of the competition. The parabolic flight takes place on 29 September.

The first phase of the 3rd edition of Astronauta por um Dia ended with 634 applications, a new competition record. Students from all over Portugal responded to the call of the Portuguese Space Agency, which has achieved the goal of total geographical representation. Of those aged between 14 and 18 who registered for the first phase of the competition, 52 percent were male and 48 percent female.

Hugo André Costa, the Portuguese Space Agency’s executive director, believes that the number of applications received for the third edition of Astronauta por um Dia “exceeded all expectations”. “The support this competition has gained year after year is unprecedented. This new record reinforces the Astronauta por um Dia reputation as the competition that young people excel at”, he says.

Compared to 2023,  the first phase of the 2024 edition of Astronauta por um Dia received 14, 31% more applications. This number rises to 37,17% when compared to the debut edition in 2022.

Like in 2023, the initiative has reached the whole country, with all the districts and autonomous regions represented in this first phase. As in previous editions, the Lisbon district continues to be the most represented, followed by Porto and Santarém. “It is amazing to realize how far Astronauta por um Dia has come. With all the regions represented in this first phase, we can say that the Portuguese Space Agency has succeeded in making its projects a priority for the whole country. Furthermore, it’s an indicator that Space is for everyone, regardless of where they live”, adds Hugo Costa.

In terms of years of schooling, the students enrolled in the 10th and 11th grades accounted for around two-thirds of all applications.

For Marta Gonçalves, manager of the Education and Science programs at the Portuguese Space Agency, the initiative Astronauta por um Dia can be crucial for the future of many young people: “We are contributing to making Space a path to follow academically and, later on, professionally, where it isn’t”. Marta Gonçalves also believes that “the first purpose is to show all the possibilities that the Space allows for young people, also showing that it is something accessible, that everyone can take advantage of and that it can be fun and inspiring”.

Astronauta por um Dia is a pioneering initiative worldwide. In 2023, Luxembourg had the support of the Portuguese Space Agency to plan its own Astronaut for a Day. Other countries such as Estonia, Germany and Finland have already shown interest in replicating the competition. “This is a very positive indicator that this initiative is indeed inspiring. It will reach students, schools, families and communities, and their interest will spread to other countries too. With this third edition, we’re ensuring that Portuguese students are the only ones in the world to have ongoing access to a life-changing experience for themselves and their families”, says Hugo Costa.

The selection process for the initiative Astronauta por um Dia follows the same procedures used by space agencies to select astronauts. The applications received will now be assessed, to select 250 candidates for the second phase, in which their Memory, Speed, and Spatial Reasoning skills will be put to the test. This will be followed by physical tests and, finally, an interview that will determine the name of the 30 finalists who will go on board the parabolic flight to be launched on 29 September from Air Base No. 11 in Beja.

Portugal Space
29 of February, 2024