You dream of becoming an ESA astronaut ? First, read the requirements below to make sure you are eligible. All space agencies have very restrictive requirements to send people in space, ESA too. Height, visual acuity, educational and professional background… Do you meet all the expectations to become an ESA astronaut ?
Nationality, gender and age requirements to become an ESA astronaut
- You must be a citizen of an European Space Agency member state or associated member state: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Slovenia, Latvia.
- The maximum age to apply is 50 years old. There is no minimum age, but given the academic and professional requirements detailed on this page, the estimated minimum age to apply is around 27 years old.
- Men and women are both eligible to become an ESA astronaut.
Physical and medical requirements to become an ESA astronaut
Several decades ago, astronauts spent a few days in space. Nowadays, this is always months, and perhaps it will be years when we’ll target to send people on Mars ! That’s why physical and medical requirements to become an ESA astronaut are so hard to complete. You may even think it’s unfair, but your body must be adapted to the dimensions of space equipment (space capsule, space station …) and ESA has to take as few risks as possible because in space it is difficult to treat a sick or wounded person.
- Your height must be between 1,53m to 1,90m (60,2 to 74,8 inches)
- A normal weight is required, according to your gender and your age
- You must have a satisfactory medical history. ESA will evaluate your muscular system, your cardiovascular system and your vestibular system (to make sure you have a good balance).
ESA has announced that a candidate with a disability may be selected following the 2021 selection campaign. This program is called the “Parastronaut Project”. The academic and psychological requirements are the same for all applicants, only the physical criteria are different for applicants with disabilities. The eligible disabilities to apply for the Parastronaut project are:
- Single or double foot deficiency through ankle
- Single or double leg deficiency below the knee
- A pronounced leg length difference
- A short stature (<130 cm)
Education to become an ESA astronaut
- ESA requires a Master’s degree (or higher) in Engineering, Medicine, Natural Sciences (Physical Sciences, Earth Sciences, Atmospheric Sciences, Ocean Sciences, Biology), Mathematics or Computer Science.
- A PhD is an asset to apply but is not required.
- Experimental test pilots and flight test engineers are also eligible if they come from an official experimental test pilot school: EPNER (France), ETPS (England), USAF TPS (US Air Force), USNTPS (US Navy). Experimental test pilots from the National Test Pilot School (NTPS) are also eligible.
Professional experience to become an ESA astronaut
- In addition to an university degree, astronaut candidates must have at least three years postgraduate professional experience in a related field.
- High knowledge in scientific fields is required by ESA. Astronaut candidates must have proven outstanding ability in applicable fields, including operational skills. ESA appreciate profiles such as test pilots and flight engineers.
Other skills and requirements
- You must speak English fluently, even if it’s not your native language. The level required in English is at least CEFR C1. Speaking other languages with a minimum CEFR B1-B2 level is an asset for your application. For example, speaking russian is an asset for your application as you will have speak to russians in the International Space Station or in other future space stations, and during your training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Russia. Also, you may have to pilot russian spacecrafts, as the Soyuz capsule. User manuals are not translated into English ! If you are interested in American, Japanese or Russian culture, it’s also an asset to communication with ESA’s international partners. Speaking Chinese is also an asset for your application because ESA is forging close relations with China in order to be able to send European astronauts to future Chinese space stations. European and Chinese astronauts have been training together for several years.
- Flying experience is welcomed but not mandatory
- Psychological requirements : first, you must have a sound mental health. ESA expects the astronaut candidates to have a good reasoning capability and memory, manual dexterity, aptitude for spatial orientation and a huge concentration capacity.
- Your personality should show a high degree of motivation, sociability and flexibility to cope with irregular working hours, frequent trips (within and outside Europe) and long periods when you will not be able to see your family and friends. Non-aggressive behavior, emotional stability and a strong ability to work under pressure are required to become an ESA astronaut. As said before, space missions are more and more long. You must be able to create and maintain a serene work environment with your international colleagues in a confined space.
- You have to show your willingness to participate in scientific experiments.
- A basic diving certificate is an asset, as your working conditions when you’ll do an EVA (spacewalk) will be quite similar as when you are diving. Similarly, practicing other so-called “risky” activities such as caving or parachuting is appreciated by ESA.
How to become an ESA astronaut?
- ESA astronaut requirements
- ESA astronaut selection process 2021
- European astronaut selection 2021: the Ultimate Guide
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Pictures by NASA/ESA.