Paris, Nov 23 (EFE).- Having been accorded a noteworthy budget increase and to counteract the strength of other space powers like the United States, China and Russia, the European Space Agency on Wednesday announced the naming of five new full-time astronauts, including two women.
The new contingent of European spacefarers, the first since 2009 and selected from among 22,500 candidates from 25 European countries, will be tasked with undertaking some of the ESA’s most important missions, including potentially traveling to Mars.
The new members of the ESA’s astronaut corps are Sophie Adenot (40, from France), Rosemary Coogan (31, Great Britain); Raphael Liegeois (34, Belgium), Marco Sieber (32, Switzerland) and Pablo Alvarez (33, Spain).
If they make it through their remaining year of training, they will join the other seven astronauts already on the ESA’s rolls: Samantha Cristoforetti ad Luca Parmitano (Italy); Alexander Gerst and Matthias Maurer (Germany);Andreas Mogenses (Denmark); Timothy Peake (Great Britain, on a leave of absence); and Thomas Pesquet (France).
“The continuous exploration in low Earth orbit on the International Space Station, going forward to the Moon – and beyond,” will be the astronauts’ mission, said the ESA director general, Austria’s Josef Aschbacher.
The agency’s human and robotic exploration chief, David Parker, welcomed the new group, who he called “extremely talented people,” to the astronaut corps, adding that they will contribute to keeping Europe in the vanguard of space exploration.
Along with the new quintet, who on April 1, 2023, will begin a year’s training at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, the agency selected – for the first time – 12 reserve astronauts, including Great Britain’s John McFall, a surgeon who had his right leg amputated at age 19 but became a Paralympian runner.
As Aschbacher said, this auxiliary dozen are considered to be astronauts since they have passed the six demanding selection tests, although they will not be included on the ESA’s rolls as employees and will be able to continue with their current jobs or careers.
These people, however, will be called upon if needed should an unexpected accident or illness put one of the full-time astronauts out of commission or if the slate of missions is expanded, among other things.
During a press conference in Paris, where the new astronauts were announced, the ESA chief said that the new members of the space squad are made from a different mold because they thrive on being put “under pressure.”
He also expressed congratulations for the 17 percent budget increase provided to the ESA over the next three years, a hike that puts the agency’s budget at 16.9 billion euros ($17.6 billion) contributed by the agency’s 25 partner nations.
“When we’re facing an economic crisis, it’s important to invest in industries that can create jobs and prosperity in Europe. Thanks to this investment, we’re building a Europe whose contribution to space mirrors its future political and economic strength,” he said.