For many people, the question of how to become an astronaut seems too dreamy to even imagine. But in March this year, the European Space Agency (ESA) will begin recruiting new astronauts, the organization announced today. This is the first time since 2008 that the agency is looking for new employees.
ESA’s astronaut candidate program officially starts on March 31st. You can register with ESA from this day until May 28th.
To make this known, the agency will launch a major recruitment campaign on February 16th. A six-stage selection process begins on May 28th. And by October 2022 it should be clear who ESA has included in its astronaut training program.
A special trajectory is also opened up to astronauts with a physical disability: the Parastronaut feasibility project. Exactly what form this process will take is not yet known.
“Europe is taking its place at the heart of space exploration,” said ESA Director General Jan Wörner. “To go further than ever, we have to look further than ever,” he said.
The last selection round in 2008 included current astronaut Alexander Gerst (of Germany). , Samantha Cristoforetti (Italy) and Thomas Pesquet (France). In the spring of this year, Pesquet will become the first European to fly with SpaceX. This company’s capsule delivered astronauts to the International Space Station back in May 2020, making it the first commercial spacecraft to do so.
So do I have the right stuff? Where do I register?
According to the ESA website, the “astronaut selection process” is based on the requirements of the upcoming missions.
In general, the main considerations are “psychological aptitude, scientific and technical competence and meeting medical criteria”.
Specifically, applicants must be nationals of one of the following countries The 22 member states of ESA . These countries currently include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
How to Become an Astronaut, Part 1: Age, Height and Education
The “preferred age range” is 27-37, although it’s unclear how strict it is preference is. However, the requirements for astronaut size are stricter. The acceptable height range is 153 cm (5 ft) to 190 cm (6′ 3″).
Applicants must also be able to speak and read English. With regard to your astronautical background, you should have a college degree or equivalent in “science, engineering or medicine”.
You should also preferably have at least three years of postgraduate work experience in a related field. “Flight experience,” according to the agency, “is welcome.”
How to become an astronaut, Part 2: ESA physical and mental health requirements
Applicants must also be in good health , with a “fair” medical history, “normal” weight and “sound mental condition”.
Applicants’ muscular, cardiovascular and vestibular systems will be thoroughly tested.
Psychologically, applicants must have “good thinking and memory, concentration, spatial orientation ability and manual dexterity.” In terms of personality, a potential astronaut needs to be motivated, flexible, outgoing, and empathetic. Aggression and neuroticism, on the other hand, are undesirable traits.
And being able to work “as a team member in an intercultural environment” is also very important, especially for the long-term missions on the space station.
Finally, candidates need good scientific knowledge and “demonstrable outstanding skills’ in relevant areas, preferably including operational skills.
Astronaut Salary: Once hired, this will be your ESA Astronaut Salary
So how much can you expect to earn if provided you are selected? The typical ESA astronaut salary starts at the A2 level. In January 2020, that was €74,646 (or $89,996).
After successfully completing the basic astronaut training, you will be promoted to ESA salary level A3 (€92,109 or USD 111,051).
Finally, after your first space flight, you will be upgraded to pay grade A4 (€107,035 or $129,046 USD). Then you are a real astronaut with a real astronaut salary.
You will also receive a 10% “foreign allowance” for the first five years. Plus a supplement of €353 per month for each dependent child and in some cases an additional monthly expatriation allowance of €99 per child. In addition, there is a “basic family allowance” of a further 353 euros per month, “doubled for employees with an allowance abroad”. Plus a generous retirement plan.And a minimum of 32 days of paid leave to start with, plus a few more days each year you stay.
Oh, and all of those salaries and allowances are tax-free.
And finally, where will I work?
As one of ESA’s new astronauts, you are likely to start your astronaut training at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany. During astronaut school, you may also be sent to the United States or Russia for further training as the mission requires.
So make a note on your calendar now and start preparing today Your astronaut application.
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Photo: Brian McGowan on Unsplash