Second edition of Zero-G Portugal – Astronaut for a Day with record number of applications
With a total of 552 applications, the second edition of the national competition promoted by the Portuguese Space Agency has exceeded the number of 2022 entries, confirming that it is one of the national programmes that most attracts young people to space.
Entries for the Zero-G Portugal – Astronauta por um Dia initiative closed on 13 March with 552 applications, a figure that represents a 20% increase on the entries received for the 2022 edition. The Portuguese Space Agency, which promotes and organises the competition, received applications from all regions. Among the youths aged between 14 and 18 who applied for the Zero-G Portugal – Astronauta por um Dia initiative, 294 were male and 258 female participants.
According to Hugo Costa, executive director of the Portuguese Space Agency, the figures achieved in this second edition indicate that “more and more young people are interested in space, or at least interested in exploring the opportunities associated with this area”. “Once again we had a fantastic turnout from Portuguese students. With all the regions represented in this first phase of applications, we have once again fulfilled the purpose of geographical representativeness. And this will always be one of the Portuguese Space Agency’s priorities in all its activities: to be able to reach out to the whole country”, he adds.
As in the previous edition, the Lisbon district continues to be the most represented, followed by Porto and Setubal. The autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira also had entries from aspiring Astronauts for a Day, doubling the number of candidates compared to the last edition. There were also significant increases in the number of applications from Beja, Faro and Castelo Branco.
Marta Gonçalves, Education and Science project manager at Portuguese Space Agency, says that the advertising and promotion campaign carried out by the agency was “essential” for this year’s increase: “We’ve not only increased and strengthened the dissemination of the project on social networks, but we’ve also invested in face-to-face clarification sessions in many schools across the country”.
“We have taken Zero-G Portugal – Astronauta por um Dia to thousands of students. We travelled thousands of kilometres: between February and March, we went from Miranda do Douro to the island of Santa Maria, São Miguel, but also to Funchal, Porto, Viseu, São Pedro do Sul, Castelo Branco, Covilhã, Lisbon, Constância, Ponte de Sor, Sines, Faro… the list is quite long. It’s been worth it to reach more students, who can benefit from this opportunity”, she adds.
Marta Gonçalves believes that “by bringing young people closer to the Space with this initiative, we’re helping to broaden their horizons so that their future decisions can cross paths with this sector, contributing to and/or taking advantage of the Space”.
The selection process for the Zero-G Portugal – Astronauta por um Dia initiative follows the processes used by space agencies to select astronauts and the applications will now be evaluated in order to select the 250 candidates who, in a second phase, will undergo a test of logic and spatial perception. This will be followed by physical tests and lastly, an interview that will determine the name of the 30 finalists who will fly on the parabolic flight on 3 September from Air Base No. 11 in Beja.