ESA 2022 astronaut class

ESA announces new class of astronauts – SpaceNews

PARIS — The European Space Agency has selected its first new astronauts in more than a decade, though long-term flight opportunities for the agency’s astronaut corps remain uncertain.

At an event here immediately after a briefing on the agency’s new three-year budget on Nov. 23, ESA announced a class of 17 selected as a combination of professional and reserve astronauts, completing a selection process that began with more than 22,500 applicants last year. This is the agency’s first new class of astronauts since 2009.

Five of the 17 are “career” astronauts, who will join ESA full-time and begin training at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany, in April. After completing a year of basic training, they will join ESA’s current seven career astronauts and be eligible for flight assignments.

The five career astronauts are:

  • Sophie Adenot, French helicopter pilot;
  • Pablo Álvarez Fernández, a Spanish engineer;
  • Rosemary Coogan, a British astrophysicist;
  • Raphaël Liégeois, a Belgian neuroscientist; and
  • Marco Sieber, Swiss doctor.

Eleven others have been selected as “reserve” astronauts. “They are not yet directly engaged by ESA via an open-ended contract, but they will be available for future astronaut activities” while maintaining their current jobs, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said. .

The latest astronaut is John McFall, chosen by ESA as part of a “parastronaut” feasibility study to see if people with certain physical disabilities could fly in space. McFall, a British doctor, lost his right leg in a motorbike accident aged 19, but became a Paralympian in athletics.

“Being an astronaut is a very exclusive thing, but having a disability shouldn’t exclude you,” David Parker, ESA’s director of human and robotics exploration, said at the event. “We are pioneering something here. It’s something we’re really excited to do.

“I felt compelled to help ESA answer this question: can we ask a physically disabled person to do meaningful work in space?” McFall said.

The feasibility study will focus on the safety of the parastronaut as well as his teammates, said Frank De Winne, director of the European Astronaut Center and a former astronaut himself, in an interview ahead of the astronaut announcement.

“When you have an emergency on the launch pad, you need to be able to evacuate the vehicle in a very short time,” he said. “How can we ensure that the parastronaut can meet these requirements with his crew without endangering himself or his crew?”

The feasibility study, which will include participation from NASA and others, will examine what changes may be needed to the International Space Station and crew transport vehicles to accommodate the parastronaut. “We have to find an agreement with the international partners, and we have to find if there should be adaptations of vehicles,” he said.

For new career astronauts, they will be eligible for missions to the ISS once their training is complete. ESA also has seats on three Artemis missions under an agreement with NASA, and ESA officials have previously said they expect two of those seats to be on Artemis missions. 4 and 5, as they will supply European components to the Lunar Gateway.

Artemis flights will likely go to existing ESA astronauts, all of whom have flight experience. “The new class of astronauts will make their first flights to the space station,” De Winne said. For the Artemis missions, he said, “we believe it is prudent to select astronauts who have proven capabilities and who already have some spaceflight experience under their belts.”

ESA has not yet selected astronauts for any of the Artemis missions. De Winne said the selection will likely take place about two years before each mission.

For ISS missions, De Winne said ESA flies, on average, one astronaut every year and a half. The agency is starting to think about how it will fly astronauts after the planned retirement from the ISS in 2030, a date that ESA member states formally approved at the ministerial meeting.

NASA plans to transfer the research and technology development activities currently carried out on the ISS to one or more commercial space stations whose development it helps to stimulate. “We have to see in Europe how we come into this world,” De Winne said, focusing on that for the next three years, until the next ministerial meeting in 2025.

Those options, he said, include buying services directly from commercial space station operators as well as entering into a new barter deal with NASA where it buys commercial space station flights and then trades them. with ESA. Another option, he said, is for ESA to develop its own cargo or crew carrying capacity and offer it to commercial space station operators to offset the costs of using those stations.

ESA Member States, he said, want to maintain the same level of activity in this post-ISS environment as they do on the ISS today, including about one flight per year and a similar search volume. “Then we have to see how we implement that and that’s the big question we all have.”

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