April 16, 2008

Europe Launches Call for New Astronauts

Europe has put out the call for new
astronauts, signaling expectations for future manned missions to the International
Space Station, the moon and more distant destinations.

European Space Agency's (ESA) selection process begins on May 19, with
candidates welcome from the agency's 17 member nations.

"We want to
find high-caliber men and women in Europe to prepare to meet the challenges of ISS exploitation and human
exploration of our solar system in the 21st century," said Michel Tognini,
former astronaut and chief of the European Astronaut Centre. "As of May
2008, ESA will be searching in each of its 17 member states for the best
candidates to make this vision a reality."

ESA's astronaut
recruitment drive appears to anticipate a new wave of European human
spaceflight missions - although NASA's space shuttle fleet will retire in 2010,
a gap
between then and the first launch of its capsule-based Orion successor
in 2014. That leaves the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and perhaps private companies
to provide space access for the duration.

The agency
built the space station's European Columbus laboratory, which astronauts
delivered in February, and successfully
delivered Jules Verne
— the first of at least five Automated Transfer
Vehicle (ATV) cargo ships — on April 3.

double-decker bus-sized ATV space freighters will haul
fresh supplies to the ISS
for ESA, the U.S.
and other station partners in return for European astronaut slots on future long-duration
crews. A similar ESA astronaut hunt in 1992 stemmed from the agency's Columbus laboratory project, the agency

Astronaut applicants
will have to provide the same medical examination certificates as private
pilots, as well as undergo psychological and professional aptitude evaluation,
medical evaluation, and a formal interview process before an ESA selection
board. Final appointments will receive their official announcement in 2009.

Thiele, head of ESA's Astronaut Division and a former spaceflyer, said
prospective candidates should be competent in a science discipline, such as life sciences, physics, chemistry
and medicine. Engineers or pilots are also welcome to apply, he added.

addition, characteristics expected of all applicants include a good memory and
reasoning ability, concentration, aptitude for spatial orientation, and manual
dexterity," Thiele added.

ESA also
wants applicants fluent in English, although Russian-language skills are a

Interested European
applicants can check the
agency's Web site
starting May 19, on the first step in the formal
application. U.S. citizens who want to try for NASA's 2009
astronaut class
still have until July 1 to apply.

member states include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.