European Space Agency begins recruitment campaign for astronauts

For the first time in over a decade, the European Space Agency (ESA) is recruiting astronauts. The campaign will be launched in all EU member states, including Belgium, to entice as many applicants as possible. The Agency is looking for people with a wide range of experience and backgrounds and have a focus on encouraging women to apply.

ESA is looking for doctors, engineers, and scientists interested in space with at least three years of experience, astronaut and head of the European Astronaut Training Centre, Frank De Winne, said on Monday.

The Belgian, who flew to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2009 aboard a Soyuz rocket, said that applicants should have a passion for ‘operational jobs.’

“It’s an operational job because astronauts are doing scientific experiments for the benefit of our universities and scientists all over the world,” he said.

“Astronauts are versatile, healthy people who know how to work as a team,” De Winne added. “They must be able to take the lead when necessary but also execute orders, including in teams working on Earth. We are looking for people who are interested in science, engineering or medicine.”

The recruitment campaign ends on the 28th May which will result in a selection process running until October 2022, ESA insists on including and encouraging female candidates. “Space is the new frontier,” said Belgian federal secretary of state for science policy Thomas Dermine. “It has an ability to make us dream of the future, to value science… and we know that too few women are in scientific fields. There’s no reason for that.”

During the last recruitment campaign in 2009 a minimum if 10,000 people applied to ESA. The European Agency expects a greater number of applicants this spring

Belgium is one of the founding members of ESA and is the fifth-largest contributor to the agency’s budget after France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

“Belgium is ‘the biggest of the small countries in space’,” said Dermine. “Our country is one of the founding members of ESA and our space industry is among the most competitive in Europe with nearly 100 companies, employing around 10, 000 people, building parts of rockets or satellites (mainly in Brussels and Wallonia).”

“The federal government has increased its contribution to ESA by 20% and has pledged never to question this budget,” he added. “This budget helps us to develop our industry but also to nurture Belgian excellence in space.”

Belgium has invested heavily on funds and time for space research, with the unofficial research HQ being the University of Liège. The Space Center there has been in existence for over 50 years.