ESA Astronaut Candidates Get a Physical

European Space Agency is nearing the selection of its newest astronaut class.
Credit: ESA-Olivier Pâques

ESA has confirmed that its astronaut selection process has entered the fourth phase. This is only the third time the agency has recruited new astronauts, with the last round occurring between 2008 and 2009.

Progress thus far:

  • ESA announced in Feb. 2021 that it had opened a call for new astronauts.
  • The agency received a record 22,000+ applications.
  • The applicant pool was whittled down to 1,361 candidates, who were invited to phase two of the selection process. That phase ended in March.
  • 400 candidates were then invited to round three, which concluded in June.
  • An undisclosed number of candidates are currently busy with phase four.

On to phase four…

The current phase of ESA’s astronaut selection process will see candidates go through a medical evaluation to assess their health and physical capabilities. 

Europe’s current astronaut candidate selection process takes on a new meaning compared to those previously conducted by ESA, each of which followed a similar phased selection process. In a world’s first, ESA opened up the call to astronaut candidates with physical disabilities, which the agency is calling “parastronauts.” 247 applications were received for this call, with 27 being invited to phase two. It’s unclear if any of the 27 are still in the running.

What’s next?

Invitations for the final phase of the selection process are expected to be sent this summer. This phase will involve the candidates participating in panel interviews with experts and high-ranking officials. The final selection of the agency’s latest astronaut class is expected to take place by the end of the year.

+ While we’re here: Check out Payload’s recent story on microgravity’s effects on astronaut bone density.