For its 2021 astronaut selection campaign, the European Space Agency was highly successful with 22,589 people submitting applications. The results of selection will be revealed in 2022.
Space is of increasing interest to the general public, a trend which Cité de l’espace in Toulouse itself has found through its contact with its visitors. This interest probably explains the success of the campaign to select astronauts for the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2021.
A RISE IN THE PERCENTAGE OF WOMEN
The previous selection campaign in 2008, in which Thomas Pesquet took part incidentally, saw 8413 applicants from ESA member countries.
In 2021, this figure almost tripled with 22,859 men and women submitting an application using online registration between 31 March and 18 June. France leads the way with 7317 applications. Is there perhaps a “Pesquet effect”? It is quite likely, because France is in first place for the rate of applications with 106 applicants per million inhabitants (Luxembourg is a close second).
In raw numbers of aspiring astronauts come Germany (3700), the United Kingdom (1979), Italy (1860) and Spain (1344). “This is historic and shows Europeans’ interest in space. I wish all applicants good luck,” applauded the Director-General of ESA, Josef Aschbacher.
Another cause for satisfaction, a rising percentage of women (see the table below).
In 2008, one applicant in six was a woman, while in 2021 we are at one in four. An increase which the astronaut Claudie Haigneré, also a sponsor of Cité de l’espace, was keen to emphasise: “In 2008, there were only 1,860 French people who attempted the adventure and, overall 15.3% of applicants were women at European level. Today, we are at 24 % for women, which is great progress.”
We should note that the record for the percentage of female applicants goes to Estonia with 38.6%, followed by the Netherlands with 30.1%. The United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany are in close competition at between 28.3 and 28%. France comes ninth out of 25 in this league table with 23.3%.
The selection process will start with the analysis of applications. First of all, 1500 applications will be selected for psychotechnical and cognitive tests in Hamburg in September or October. ESA estimates that 800 people will come through this stage, then 200 after individual interviews. Medical examinations will reduce the numbers to around 40 people and further interviews will bring that down to around twenty. From this group between two and four astronauts will be chosen. We will then be in 2022.