Fourteen years after the previous selection, the European Space Agency presented this Wednesday afternoon in Paris its new class of astronauts. The French joins Thomas Pesquet in this body whose headquarters are in Cologne. When is the first flight?
22,589 applications received by the European Space Agency (ESA), including 5,419 women, 257 candidates for the post of astronaut with a disability, but only a handful of elected officials. This Wednesday in Paris, on the sidelines of the ministerial council hosted since the day before at the ephemeral Grand Palais, which must decide on the European space budget for the period 2023-2025, the agency unveiled the five names of its new promotion of astronauts and the twelve who will constitute his reserve. And this fourth recruiting campaign has aroused an interest never imagined.
An unprecedented number of applications
The Artemis program that will bring men back to the Moon. The formidable images of a James Webb telescope digging into the origins of the Universe, the adventure of the Perseverance rover looking for traces of life on the surface of Mars, the Dart project to defend the Earth against an asteroid or even the race to the space of web billionaires are of course no strangers to this craze. Which generated three times more applications than in 2008. Just as, on the French side, the second mission in the ISS that Thomas Pesquet completed a year ago induced immense popular curiosity and, sometimes, a mad desire to ‘infinite ; 7,087 of them tried their luck.
Since 2020, space news is exploding and it is therefore once again dreaming of thousands of young people, a handful of whom will set foot on the Moon, perhaps on Mars in the case of this new contingent. The next Frenchman in space is among them, Sophie Adenot. This engineer graduated from SupAero, in Toulouse, military helicopter pilot, will follow in the footsteps of Jean-Loup Chrétien, it was forty years ago, and of the first astronaut in Western Europe, Claudie Haigneré, in 1996, to name only those among the ten Tricolores who flew.
Places for a lunar trip
Sophie Adenot will no doubt have to be patient. Claudie Haigneré had waited eleven years after joining the European Astronaut Corps before flying aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. Entering this same body in 2008, Thomas Pesquet did not reach the International Space Station until November 17, 2016, eight years later. And it is not forbidden to believe that he will still be the next Frenchman in space, after the success of his last mission, Alpha, from April to November 2021, a role as commander of the ISS and a lot of experience gained at the key.
Would you fly with #Artemis to the Moon?
We would! And so would @Thom_astro !
In this video Thomas explains why, how @esa astronauts are preparing for @NASA_Gateway and his thoughts on #Moon photography?? #ForwardToTheMoon pic.twitter.com/x3wuO0adRr
— Human Spaceflight (@esaspaceflight) November 20, 2022
Anyway, the 40-year-old and the other new astronauts – 50% are women – will have opportunities. Europe, in exchange for the service modules of the Orion spacecraft – six ordered by NASA with a unit value of 250 million dollars -, and two of the four elements of the future lunar orbital station, Gateway, obtained a seat to the Moon on Artemis flights 4 and 5. It is seeking others and could have its own ship by the end of the decade to transport them to space.