Europe Launches Call for New Astronauts
ESA astronaut Andre Kuipers and Frank de Winne during EVA training in NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Facility in Houston.
Europe has put out the call for new astronauts, signaling expectations for future manned missions to the International Space Station, the moon and more distant destinations.
The European Space Agency's (ESA) selection process begins on May 19, with candidates welcome from the agency?s 17 member nations.
?We want to find high-caliber men and women in Europe to prepare to meet the challenges of ISS exploitation and human exploration of our solar system in the 21st century," said Michel Tognini, former astronaut and chief of the European Astronaut Centre. "As of May 2008, ESA will be searching in each of its 17 member states for the best candidates to make this vision a reality."
ESA's astronaut recruitment drive appears to anticipate a new wave of European human spaceflight missions - although NASA's space shuttle fleet will retire in 2010, leaving a gap between then and the first launch of its capsule-based Orion successor in 2014. That leaves the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and perhaps private companies to provide space access for the duration.
The agency built the space station?s European Columbus laboratory, which astronauts delivered in February, and successfully delivered Jules Verne the first of at least five Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo ships on April 3.
The double-decker bus-sized ATV space freighters will haul fresh supplies to the ISS for ESA, the U.S. and other station partners in return for European astronaut slots on future long-duration crews. A similar ESA astronaut hunt in 1992 stemmed from the agency?s Columbus laboratory project, the agency said.
Astronaut applicants will have to provide the same medical examination certificates as private pilots, as well as undergo psychological and professional aptitude evaluation, medical evaluation, and a formal interview process before an ESA selection board. Final appointments will receive their official announcement in 2009.
Gerhard Thiele, head of ESA?s Astronaut Division and a former spaceflyer, said prospective candidates should be competent in a science discipline, such as life sciences, physics, chemistry and medicine. Engineers or pilots are also welcome to apply, he added.
"In addition, characteristics expected of all applicants include a good memory and reasoning ability, concentration, aptitude for spatial orientation, and manual dexterity," Thiele added.
ESA also wants applicants fluent in English, although Russian-language skills are a plus.
Interested European applicants can check the agency?s Web site starting May 19, on the first step in the formal application. U.S. citizens who want to try for NASA's 2009 astronaut class still have until July 1 to apply.
ESA?s member states include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
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