European space chiefs have launched their first recruiting plant for new astronauts in 11 years, with a special focus on encouraging women and people with disabilities to join missions to the moon and, ultimately, to Mars.
The European Space Agency (ESA) said on Tuesday it was trying to boost the diversity of its crews by tracing up to 26 permanent and reserve astronauts.
But the ESA warned that it expected “a very large number” of applications to arrive during the eight-week hiring on March 31, and said candidates would have to endure a difficult selection process that runs until October 2022.
“Candidates need to be mentally prepared for this process,” Lucy van der Tass, ESA’s head of talent, told a news conference.
Adapting technology that has allowed humans to be in space could open the door for people with disabilities, said Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
“When it comes to space travel, we are all disabled,” added Christoforetti.
Applications for the job of an astronaut at ESA include a Master of Science (MSc) in Natural Sciences, Engineering, Mathematics or Computer Science and three years of postgraduate experience.
“I think it’s a great opportunity … it will be an opportunity to learn a lot about yourself,” Christoforetti said.
It comes as human space flight appears ready to revive.
After years in which Baikonur was the only location for the launch of the manned spaceflight in the steppes of Kazakhstan, cooperation with private companies such as SpaceX has increased the prospect of more human missions.