May 20, 2009
ESA Names First British-Born Astronaut
The European Space Agency on Wednesday announced the acceptance of its first British astronaut.
Timothy Peake, 37, was named alongside a roster of five new astronauts during a ceremony in Paris. The astronauts will begin training for missions to the International Space Station "and beyond", said the ESA.
"We are at a turning point in ESA's human spaceflight activities," ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said.
"We are now entering a new phase of utilization of the unique capabilities offered by the ISS and preparation for international exploration of the Moon and beyond," he said.
The six new astronauts were chosen from a list of 8,413 candidates throughout Europe. They include Samantha Cristoforetti, of Italy, Alexander Gerst of Germany, Andreas Mogensen of Denmark, Luca Parmitano of Italy and Thomas Pesquet of France. Recruits range in range from 31 to 37 years old.
They are the first to join the European Astronaut Corps since 1992.
"This new phase required the recruitment of young talent able to draw on the experience gained by the existing astronauts, able to become, step by step, the representatives of Europe in space who, together with their international colleagues, will live, work, explore and bring back to planet Earth and its citizens their unique experience, their accomplishments and their confidence in the future. They all represent the generation that will move from low earth orbit to the Moon," said Dordain.
"If the Space Station is extended to 2020, we have in front of us seven guaranteed flights," he said.
However, they will have to wait at least 3.5 years before they can go into space.
According to BBC News: "Successive British governments have considered human spaceflight an expensive distraction, preferring to fund robotic exploration instead."
However, this is has made it difficult for Brits to get into space.
"I hope it will now encourage the British government to contribute," said Dordain.
"With such a good guy, how can they not contribute?"
"Despite its rich heritage of aerospace experience, for many years the UK has been absent from government-organized human spaceflight activity," said Nick Spall, coordinator of the UK human spaceflight campaign at the British Interplanetary Society.
"As a result, the nation has missed out on the science, industrial, exploration and inspirational benefits that this international endeavor has provided for the rest of the developed world" he told BBC News.
Peake, a member of the armed forces for 18 years, routinely flies Apache helicopters and has more than 3,000 hours in flight.
"If it wasn't for the British Army I wouldn't be in this position, so I'm very grateful for the training and support I've received from them also," said Peake.
Although Peake is the first British-born astronaut chosen by ESA, three British astronauts have previously ventured into space with NASA.
Image 1: Three of the six individuals who will become Europe's new astronauts were presented at a press conference held at ESA Headquarters in Paris, France, on 20 May 2009. The new recruits will join the European Astronaut Corps and start their training to prepare for future missions to the International Space Station, and beyond. From left to right: Thomas Pesquet, Timothy Peake, Luca Parmitano. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2009
Image 2: Three of the six individuals who will become Europe's new astronauts were presented at a press conference held at ESA Headquarters in Paris, France, on 20 May 2009. The new recruits will join the European Astronaut Corps and start their training to prepare for future missions to the International Space Station, and beyond. From right to left: Samantha Cristoforetti, Alexander Gerst , Andreas Mogensen, Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2009
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