Become an ESA astronaut

Become an ESA astronaut

The European Space Agency is launching its fourth astronauts selection. To take part you must apply between 31 March and 28 May 2021. The ESA will be exploring the possibility of including disabled people, a first.

For the fourth time since its creation in 1975, the European Space Agency, ESA, will conduct an astronaut selection. We have to go back to 2008 for the previous process which led, in 2009, to six people being chosen, including the French astronaut, Thomas Pesquet.


First of all, you have to meet the primary mandatory criteria. Selection is, therefore, open to men and women who are citizens of one of the 22 ESA member countries or the two associate members.
The list of countries involved: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, United Kingdom, Sweden, Czech Republic and Switzerland, plus Slovenia and Latvia (Associate Members).
A Masters Level Degree in Science, Mathematics or Engineering is required, or else a qualification as a test pilot. In addition to that, three years of relevant professional experience. Mastery of English (minimum level, CEFR C1) is also a prerequisite. Knowledge of another language (CEFR B1-B2) level is an asset.
In addition to its criteria, the ESA specifies that candidates must be strongly motivated, have the capacity to work at times which vary enormously and that they will travel a lot and will therefore often be away from home.
All this and other information is explained on the ESA website for the recruitment campaign (click on the image below). At the press conference on 16 February, it was indicated that the maximum age allowed would be 50 years old.


As mentioned in the previous article, the ESA “aims to initiate a real generational change” and “strongly encourages women to apply.” Remember that for the 2009 selection, there only one woman (the Italian Samantha Cristoforetti) was chosen, and 5 men. Sadly, that was a proportion equivalent to the number of women who applied. The agency hopes that in 2021 many more women will apply.

It should be noted that the ESA intends to select between four and six astronauts. In addition to the missions to the International Space Station which are currently taking place, the Moon and later Mars are part of the objectives. Especially the Moon, in view of the ESA’s active cooperation in the NASA Artemis programme to return to the Moon.

Finally, David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at the ESA, referred to “the feasibility study on parastronauts – an innovation whose time has come.”

Infographie de l’ESA à propos du projet parastronautes. Crédit : ESA

ESA Infographic on the parastronauts project.
Credit : ESA

This is about studying the possibility of including as astronauts those who are affected by physical disability. The loss of a lower limb, a difference in leg size or a height of less than 130 cm are mentioned as examples. The idea is not to deprive the agency of talents over a question of disability. However, the agency does not wish to raise false hopes and emphasises that it is undertaking a feasibility study on a “very innovative project” for which it must “work with experts in the field.”

The selection process will follow the following stages.

  • 31 March to 28 May 2021: application phase.
  • May to June 2021: examination of applications.
  • July to November 2021: psychological tests.
  • January to April 2022: practical and psychometric tests.
  • May to July 2022: medical selection.
  • July to September 2022: first phase of interviews.
  • September 2022: second phase of interviews.
  • October 2022: selection announcement.

Meanwhile, a bit of nostalgia with this video of the visit to Cité de l’espace in Toulouse, in 2010, of the six successful ESA candidates of 2009. Since then, they have all carried out at least one space mission!

Credit for the title illustration: Cité de l’espace from ESA documents



    A partir du 21 juillet 2021, le pass sanitaire est obligatoire pour accéder à la Cité de l’espace.


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