UK launches search for the first 'para-astronaut': People with 'lower limb deficiencies or short stature' are being encouraged to sign up for future missions to the MOON

 The UK Space Agency is actively searching for the next British astronaut and is looking beyond the able-bodied for the first time. 

A recruitment drive from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the UK has launched today with the ultimate goal of hiring and training people who will be sent to the moon before the end of the 2020s.

This recruitment drive, the first from ESA since 2008, is the only one in history to feature a pilot scheme which encourages people living with disabilities to apply. 


Individuals with missing feet or lower legs, either from amputation or birth defects, are eligible, as too are people who are shorter than 130 cm (4ft 3in). 

In total the European Space Agency are looking for about 26 astronauts - six permanent career astronauts and 20 reservists who can be called up as needed. 


A recruitment drive from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the UK has launched today with the ultimate goal of hiring and training people who will be sent to the moon before the end of the 2020s

A recruitment drive from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the UK has launched today with the ultimate goal of hiring and training people who will be sent to the moon before the end of the 2020s 

ESA have secured three astronaut trips to the Lunar Gateway due to be built in orbit around the Moon and hope to be able to send European's to the surface of our natural satellite in the future. 


'Astronauts will fly further away from Earth than anybody has ever been' when they go to the Gateway as it will be further from Earth than the Moon, says Frank De Winne from the ESA astronaut training centre.

'The first five to ten years will see astronauts fly to the ISS, but after that there will be opportunities to fly to the Moon and further than the Moon,' 

The lucky individual will continue the British space exploration legacy started by Helen Sharman in 1989 and continued in 2015 by Tim Peake. 

Ms Sharman became the first British Astronaut when she was selected for the joint UK - Soviet Union mission, Juno and spent eight days in space in May 1991. She also made history as the first female Astronaut to visit the Mir Space Station.

Mr Peake however became the first government-funded Briton in space when he launched to the ISS on December 15, 2015. he spent six months on the ISS and was the first Briton to complete a spacewalk.  

Mr Peake was part of the 2008 ESA recruiting class alongside five other Britons and this was the last time the ESA actively recruited for astronauts. 

Jan Womer, ESA Director General, said they were actively recruiting for new astronauts despite those from the last selection still being active as they need to 'secure a continuity' and smooth transfer of knowledge between generations.

'The International Space Station is a destination for the future but we are also looking towards the Moon, especially the Gateway, and so we're looking for new astronauts.'

Womer said all astronauts are 'European astronauts'. He says he understands they are loved and held up with pride by their home nation, but at the heart they are pan-European astronauts that are celebrated throughout the continent. 

Although more people than ever are being encouraged to apply, there are still stringent restrictions on who can become an astronaut. 

For example, people are only eligible if they are either qualified as an experimental test pilot or hold a master's degree or higher in Natural Sciences, Medicine, Engineering, Mathematics or Computer Sciences.

Fluency in English is essential, as too is the ability to be calm under pressure and a willingness to participate in life science experiments. 


ESA are looking for up to six 'career astronauts' that will command missions and be permanent members of the ESA Astronaut crew, as well as a selection of 'reserve astronauts' to step in for short term or short notice missions.

These would be a one-off or limited duration mission, with reserve astronauts remaining with their current employer, but hired by ESA temporarily.

'They could come from contributing members of ESA, including associated states such as Canada, willing to fund an astronaut, says David Parker from ESA.

They are looking for up to 20 astronauts to join the volunteer, reserve crew. 

'Over the next few years and decades, space exploration will become even more exciting as we travel back to the Moon and even further to Mars,' Mr Peake said.

'For space missions to succeed, they require highly motivated people from diverse backgrounds to combine their skills and work as a team. 


British astronaut Tim Peake is helping with the latest recruitment drive and will likely be going back to the International Space Station in the coming years

British astronaut Tim Peake is helping with the latest recruitment drive and will likely be going back to the International Space Station in the coming years

Candidates will go through a rigorous selection process including screening, psychological testing, medical testing and interviews

Candidates will go through a rigorous selection process including screening, psychological testing, medical testing and interviews

'The next generation of UK citizens have so much to offer the world, and so I would encourage anyone who has dreamt of pushing the boundaries of what is possible to take this opportunity to be part of ESA's future cohort of space pioneers.'

Applications will go via the ESA website and open on March 31 for two months. 


To apply you will need to upload a CV, medical certificate and proof of qualifications and that you meet all the requirements. 

Jennifer Ngo-Anh, a space scientist with ESA, said it is a challenging job that requires candidates that can work with inter-disciplinary and international teams.

'Candidates need to have fine and advanced motor skills and need to be calm under pressure, but there will be a strong team supporting them.

'Astronauts are the most visible characters of our space programme and so will contribute to outreach and public relations activities before, during and after a mission,' she said. 

Following this period of time there will be a 17-month process of screening and testing before the finalists are announced in October 2022. 

Science Minister, Amanda Solloway, said: 'Becoming an astronaut is a dream for many, and Tim Peake's historic mission to space in 2015 showed millions of Brits that it can become a reality, while putting the UK firmly on the map as a leading space-faring nation.

'With the UK space sector receiving more government backing than ever before, it's time for a new generation of British astronauts to answer this call as we continue working with our European partners to push the boundaries of science and exploration even further.'

The coveted role of astronaut is the most well-known role in the sector of space exploration but 42,000 people in the UK work in the business, with roles ranging from aerospace engineers to lawyers.  

Applications will open on March 31st and stay open for two months until May 28th. 

Astronauts launching for space will be expected to be able to participate in space science missions and may one day travel to the lunar gateway

Astronauts launching for space will be expected to be able to participate in space science missions and may one day travel to the lunar gateway

A number of European Space Agency astronauts have already been to the ISS and the new cohort will also travel to a new space station around the Moon within the decade

A number of European Space Agency astronauts have already been to the ISS and the new cohort will also travel to a new space station around the Moon within the decade

There will then be a 17-month process of screening, psychological, practical, and psychometric testing, medical selections and two interview selections until the final applicants will be appointed and announced in October 2022.  

'Becoming an astronaut has been a dream come true. It brings together many of my passions,' Samantha Cristoforetti, current ESA astronaut said of the opening. 

She said it covers 'science and technology, complex machines, demanding operational environments, international teams, physical fitness, public outreach. And of course, occasionally you get to ride a rocket to work!' 

Frank De Winne from the ESA astronaut centre said the first missions of the new astronauts will be to the ISS as it is still the core of ESA projects.

The European Space Agency is looking for a parastronaut that could travel to the ISS in the future

The European Space Agency is looking for a parastronaut that could travel to the ISS in the future

There will be a rigorous training regime for the handful of potential astronauts selected from the thousands of applications

There will be a rigorous training regime for the handful of potential astronauts selected from the thousands of applications

'They will participate in long duration missions to the ISS where they will participate in space science experiments,' he said, adding over the decade they will have the opportunity to go further afield, including to the surface of the Moon.


'Some of the future missions these astronauts have got to look forward to are incredible,' said Tim Peake.  

Jan Womer said 'diversity is not a burden for us, diversity is an asset for us.'

'Diversity is something we are looking into in more broader sense, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability and other characteristics,' he said.

'We would really encourage women to apply as it is interesting and supportive to have mixed teams, but for the first time we are also selecting people with disabilities for our parastronaut project, said Womer.

De Winne confirmed future astronauts would travel to space on a range of launch vehicles including SpaceX, Soyuz and Boeing.

'Our astronauts can fly on any of those vehicles and it is decided on a mission by mission basis based on traffic flow to the International Space Station,' he said. 

De Winne said the important part is the work on the ISS and the 'bus taken to get there is of less importance,' adding 'we are open to any solution in the future'. 

For the parastronaut vacancy, while they will remain a member of the reserve crew, ESA plans to work with commercial space operators to find a safe way to send them to the ISS where thy can perform 'meaningful and useful work'.

'We believe it is time to assess the feasibility of sending astronauts with physical disabilities into space, Womer said. 

David Parker from ESA said they've been examining the barriers involved in sending a physically disabled astronaut to the ISS and have them work there.

This is why initially a disabled astronaut will join the reserve list, rather than become a permanent ESA astronaut, but they aim to send them to the station.

The plan is to work with ISS partners to find a way to send someone with physical disabilities to space - as ESA doesn't have its own crew vehicles. 

'We need to work with experts in the field, with providers of space transportation, with medical technology companies,' said Parker. 

UK launches search for the first 'para-astronaut': People with 'lower limb deficiencies or short stature' are being encouraged to sign up for future missions to the MOON UK launches search for the first 'para-astronaut': People with 'lower limb deficiencies or short stature' are being encouraged to sign up for future missions to the MOON Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 06:21 Rating: 5

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