In early 2021, ESA (European Space Agency) will launch a new campaign to select astronauts to join the ranks of the European Astronaut Corps (EAC).
Applicants will likely have one month to complete the first step of the 2021 selection, and then the best applicants will advance to the next steps of the selection.
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ESA 2021 Astronaut Selection Process
Given the current health environment, the early stages of the ESA 2021 astronaut selection process will likely take place more online than in the past.
In fact, in March 2020, the NASA astronaut recruitment tests took place online. ESA could use this model to make an initial selection of candidates with high potential.
During the previous recruitment campaign, the ESA astronaut selection process consisted of the 6 steps detailed below:
Step 1: Application form and medical certificate
10,000 registered ► 8,413 completed this stage (84%)
The first step in the formal application was online at a dedicated website. Applicants had to fill out an application form and to provide the same medical examination certificate as private pilots (JAR-FCL 3 Class 2 medical certificate), the examination for which must be conducted by an Aviation Medical Examiner certified by his/her national aviation medical authority, or an ESA Astronaut Applicant Medical Statement that has been authorized by a physician (for example a general medical practitioner).
Step 2: First selection by ESA staff
8,413 qualified ► 918 selected (11%)
From the 8,413 aspiring astronauts who provided a medical certificate and finalised the online application form, 918 were chosen to take part in the first stage of psychological testing.
Step 3: Psychological and professional aptitude evaluation (first stage)
918 qualified ► 192 selected (21%)
The first stage of computer-based psychological testing finished consisted of tests to evaluate the cognitive capabilities of the candidates, such as tests of memory, psycho-motor test, multitasking, linguistic skills, and various forms of visualisation-based tasks.
Step 4: Psychological and professional aptitude evaluation (second stage)
192 qualified ► 80 selected (42%)
The remaining 192 candidates from across Europe had been invited to continue on to the second stage of psychological testing at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. The second stage of psychological testing is overseen by psychologists and relevant ESA experts and consists of interviews, computer simulations, group exercises, roll playing exercises and behavioural testing.
Step 5: Medical evaluation
80 qualified ► 40 selected (50%)
About 80 candidates were invited to take part in an extensive medical evaluation.This process included clinical examination by aero- medical physicians and clinical specialists, laboratory screening tests, and special procedures.
Step 6: Interviews
40 qualified ► 6 selected (15%)
As potential ESA staff members, the astronaut candidates went before an ESA selection board for further professional assessment. 6 were invited to become members of the European Astronaut Corps. The chosen candidates began basic training at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.
ESA 2021 astronaut selection: what should change
Steps 1 and 2 (or 1 to 3) of the ESA astronaut selection process could be combined into a single step to be carried out online (personal information to be completed and tests to be validated online), as was done by the NASA in March 2020.
However, since ESA’s goals are the same as 12 years ago (i.e. to send European astronauts into Earth orbit, to the Moon and beyond), the content of the tests should logically be created to target the same objectives.
How to become an ESA astronaut?
Becoming an astronaut is very difficult (7 astronauts recruited only out of 10,000 candidates during the previous selection) but not impossible! So if you think you have what it takes to join ESA’s 7 active astronauts or if you dream of one day becoming an ESA Astronaut, take the opportunity to go as far as possible in the ESA 2021 astronaut selection process.
ESA astronaut requirements
While waiting for the launch of the ESA 2021 astronaut selection campaign, assess your chances of becoming the next European astronaut now by consulting the astronaut requirements communicated in the past by ESA:
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Do not miss this opportunity to try your luck, an ESA astronaut selection campaign occurs approximately every 10 years!
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Image credits :
- Thomas Pesquet and Alexander Gerst: NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
- Tim Peake: NASA/Timothy Kopra, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
- ESA active astronauts: ESA
- Thomas Pesquet in the ISS: ESA/NASA