September 3, 2009

New ESA astronauts begin basic training

The European Space Agency says its six new astronaut recruits started their 18-month basic training in preparation for future space missions.

The new astronauts at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany, are Samantha Cristoforetti of Milan, Italy; Alexander Gerst, from Kunzelsau, Germany; Andreas Mogensen, from Copenhagen, Denmark; Luca Parmitano, from Paterno, Italy; Timothy Peake of Chichester, England; and Thomas Pesquet of Rouen, France.

The taking-up duty of the new class of ESA (astronauts) marks our commitment to a future important role for Europe in human spaceflight, said Simonetta Di Pippo, the ESA's director of human spaceflight."

DiPippo said the new European astronauts began training this week and will be ready for space mission assignments around 2013.

It is not enough to be a good scientist or an excellent engineer to become an astronaut, said Michel Tognini, director of the European Astronaut Center. The 18-month basic training at EAC will bring the new astronauts to a professional level in various fields, including Russian, fundamentals of several scientific disciplines, history of spaceflight, space engineering, human behavior, flight training and other essential parts of the astronaut job. This will enable them to be trained to carry out complex tasks during space missions.