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Astronaut selection 2021-22 FAQs


The mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) is the peaceful exploration and use of space for the benefit of all. We watch over the earth, develop and launch inspiring and unique space projects, train astronauts and push the boundaries of science and technology to find answers to the big scientific questions about the universe.

How can I apply to be an astronaut? 

The next application phase for astronauts will begin on March 31, 2021. You can access the application platform via the ESA Astronaut Selection page.

Which subjects and qualifications are required for an application? What should I have studied?

Applicants must have a university degree (or equivalent) in a natural science subject (physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics), engineering or medicine, and preferably at least three years of relevant work experience or flight experience as a pilot. Naturally, the candidates should have a good knowledge of at least one of the scientific disciplines. Studying aerospace engineering is a great advantage, but not a requirement. Important: Whatever you have studied, you should above all be good in your subject.

I do not speak English. Can I still apply?

Applicants must be able to speak and write English, and knowledge of another foreign language is an advantage.

I do not speak Russian. Can I still apply?

Yes. Knowledge of Russian is an advantage, but not a requirement. Since Russian is the second official language on board the ISS, you will receive Russian lessons during the astronaut training.

According to which medical and psychological standards are the candidates selected?

ESA astronauts must have a wide range of knowledge, skills and qualities. An important component in the search for people with the right qualifications is an assessment of the applicant's state of health from a medical and psychological point of view. Below is a general overview of the medical and psychological health criteria for assessing candidates.

In general, normal medical and psychological health standards apply. These standards were developed from evidence-based medicine and verified in clinical studies.

  • Applicants must pass a health examination according to JAR-FCL 3, class 2, which is to be carried out by a flight doctor (AME) approved by the national aero-medical authority.
  • Applicants must not have any illnesses.
  • Applicants must not be addicted to drugs, alcohol or tobacco.
  • Applicants must have unrestricted mobility and normal functionality in all joints.
  • Applicants must achieve 100% (20/20) vision in both eyes, uncorrected or through correction with glasses or contact lenses.
  • Applicants must not have any mental disorders.
  • Applicants must have the cognitive, mental and character skills required to work efficiently in an environment with high intellectual and social requirements.


Do I have to be well trained to be an astronaut? What sport should I do?

It is important that you are healthy and in a physical condition appropriate to your age. We are not looking for particularly well-trained people or top athletes - excessively developed muscles can even be a disadvantage for astronauts in weightlessness. There is no recommendation for a specific sport. Exercise in general is beneficial for health.

How can I prepare for the medical tests?

As part of the medical selection, applicants are subjected to numerous tests from many areas. Some of the tests, such as ergometer or treadmill exercises, are physically demanding. Some tests are invasive, others are simply answering a questionnaire. Specific preparation for the medical examinations is not possible. If an examination requires special preparation, such as fasting before a blood sample, applicants will be instructed accordingly.

Do astronauts get serious health problems while in space?

No. Space travel does not cause any dangerous damage to health. Nevertheless, space is a hostile environment and the well-being of astronauts depends on life support systems. Weightlessness can temporarily have negative effects on the human body. In this context, a deterioration in physical condition and demineralization of the bones should be mentioned. ESA's medical service is responsible for protecting astronauts from such dangers and for preventing their stay in space from negatively affecting their physical and mental health. The environmental and life support systems are closely monitored. In addition, there is a detailed prevention and remedial program.

Is it harder for women to become an astronaut?

No, from a physical point of view, it's no more difficult for women. Apart from gender-specific medical examinations, the medical and psychological requirements for men and women are identical. The physical condition and the condition of the cardiovascular system are always assessed individually and the fitness target values ​​are adapted to the physiological differences between men and women. A woman does not have to achieve the male norm values, and neither does the other way round.

I am defective. Can I still become an astronaut?

There is no clear answer to this because there are too many different visual defects. In fact, ametropia is the most common reason that applicants are rejected. The main tests include visual acuity, color vision, and spatial vision tests. Wearing glasses or contact lenses is not per se a reason for rejection. However, it must be assessed whether, for example, there is a known, rapidly progressing visual defect. This could lead to exclusion. Minor visual defects, even if corrected through glasses or contact lenses, may be compatible with activities in space. In the meantime, visual acuity can often be corrected through various surgical procedures. Some of these procedures lead to exclusion; others are acceptable. Each case is assessed individually.

Are there psychological and intellectual requirements?

The general qualities expected of applicants include good judgment, the ability to work under stressful conditions, good memory, concentration, spatial orientation, psychomotor coordination and manual dexterity. Applicants should be characterized by high motivation, flexibility, the ability to work in a team, low levels of aggressiveness and emotional stability.

What is the ideal application age?

Every space mission is an extremely high burden for all actors involved. For this reason, but also to ensure that all ESA astronauts complete at least two missions before they retire, ESA is obliged to set a maximum age limit of 50 Years.

What is an astronaut?

Astronauts are persons trained to pilot or fly a spacecraft or to serve as a crew member during a space mission. The criteria for defining space flight are different. According to the definition of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (World Air Sports Federation), for a space flight z. B. an altitude of 100 km can be reached.

Is there a center for training astronauts in Europe?

Yes, namely the European Astronaut Center (EAC) of ESA in Cologne (Germany).

What is the typical role of ESA astronauts in a crew?

European astronauts take part in long-term missions to the ISS. They carry out experiments there and operate the station's systems. They assemble, activate and check new station components, carry out scientific research tasks and even act as test subjects for life science experiments.

What is the role of astronauts when they are not preparing for a flight?

They provide technical support for space programs, upgrade their qualifications and do public relations work. They explain the importance of space research in general and astronautical space travel in particular.

How long does the astronaut training take?

The training takes place in three phases: basic training, advanced training and mission-specific training. Astronauts spend half of their careers in training.

Immediately after being selected, the candidates complete a 1-year period in the European astronaut center Basic trainingThe training first provides information about the ESA and other space agencies as well as the most important space programs. Afterwards, basic knowledge in aerospace engineering, electrical engineering and various scientific disciplines are on the training program. In a third training block, the central systems of the ISS and the transport systems such as the space shuttle and the Soyuz are dealt with. At the end of the basic training, the candidates acquire knowledge in special areas. You will complete diving training (as the basis for training for space operations) and receive Russian lessons, deal with robotics, rendezvous and docking maneuvers and complete behavioral and performance training.

The Advanced training also lasts one year and provides those involved from all ISS partner countries with comprehensive knowledge and skills in the operation and maintenance of ISS modules, systems, payloads and transport spaceships. The training content is now more detailed, but still general, and focuses on the skills that future crew members will need on virtually every flight to the ISS. In certain areas, more specific content is conveyed. This applies to the handling of resources and data, robotics, navigation, maintenance, inboard and outboard operations, medical knowledge and knowledge of payloads. These contents are conveyed in all facilities in the partner countries and are intended to familiarize the astronauts with certain elements and processes of space flight.

The last training phase, the mission-specific or also Increment-specific training ("Increment" refers to the period between the crew change on the station), provides the deployment and replacement crews with the knowledge and skills that are required for the respective mission. This approximately 18-month phase also strengthens the solidarity and team spirit of the crews.

Are there differences in the training of men and women?

The training of female and male candidates does not differ.

What about medical care in space?

For long-term missions, a doctor takes care of every single astronaut before, during and after the flight. Both are in frequent contact, discuss health issues, and perform medical tests while the astronaut is in space. There are generally no medical personnel on board, but two astronauts ("Crew Medical Officers", CMOs) per mission are trained to provide medical assistance. Your medical interventions are comparable to those of a paramedic on earth. There is a special book on board, the so-called “medical checklist”, which helps laypeople diagnose and treat sick or injured crew members. Astronauts and CMOs are supported by doctors (flight doctors) on the ground. They help with clinical decisions and guide the CMOs through the checklist. The crew has several medication bags with aspirin or other mild medicines and an emergency case containing pain relievers, anesthetics, dental medication, bandages, stethoscope, defibrillator and other more complex instruments and medicines for life support. In a “private medical conference”, the aviation doctor can talk to all astronauts for 15 minutes once a day over a secure channel to discuss potential health problems.

What effects does a long stay in space have on the body?

A long stay in space can have many physical consequences. These include a decrease in the mass and strength of muscles and bones, posture and movement problems, and a significant decrease in blood volume, which affects the cardiovascular system. However, these negative effects are not permanent. ESA's medical service supports the astronauts in alleviating health problems and carries out rehabilitation measures to restore normal health after their return to earth.

Is it true that bone mass breaks down during a stay in space? Can this be cured?

Depending on the individual circumstances and the intensity of the physical training, you lose around 1% of your bone mass per month in space. How long it takes after the mission to rebuild normal bone mass again depends on the duration of the flight. After a long-term mission of around 6 months, it will take at least 6 months to regain bone mass before the flight. Physical exercise also plays a role: Exercise during a mission promotes recovery.

What does everyday life in space look like?

Every day in space (apart from the rest days) is carefully planned by Mission Control. The 12-hour working day on the ISS begins with a wake-up call. After a quick “wash” with a damp cleaning cloth, the crew has breakfast and discusses the tasks for the day with the mission control. Space stations are like large, complicated buildings that require constant care and attention. A lot of time is therefore spent on routine tasks such as cleaning and repair work. There are three fixed meals with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Drinks and snacks are available to the crew at all times. The crew also spends a great deal of time preparing and conducting scientific experiments. This partly requires direct exchange with scientists on earth. At least two hours a day are earmarked for physical training. This is of the utmost importance for the health and fitness of the crew members. Loading the space transporter with waste and unloading the newly arrived supplies is also an important task. When space walks are pending, they have to be prepared for many hours.

How do you eat in space?

Much of the food has to be specially prepared so that it can be consumed in weightlessness. The most common method used is freeze drying. The astronauts simply rehydrate the food by putting it in their mouth or adding water.

How do you go to the toilet in space?

The toilet is designed for both men and women. A seat belt and foot rests keep the crew member in the seat and high-speed air currents suck the waste into the appropriate containers. The urine is mixed with other wastewater. The feces are vacuum-dried, chemically treated to remove odor and bacteria and then stored.

How do you shower in space?

Crew members do not shower at all in space. Since the ISS can only be supplied from Earth to a limited extent, it must be managed as efficiently as possible. Water is one of the most valuable resources on board. Showers are impractical in weightlessness anyway, as the water floats in the room without direction. Instead, they use wet wipes.

How do you sleep in space?

Due to the weightlessness, the crew members cannot sleep “on” beds. So that they don't float across the room, they sleep in their bunks in sleeping bags strapped to them. You can sleep upright, upside down, or even floating freely in the air.

What clothes do you wear in space?

There is no special clothing. Crew members wear normal clothing such as T-shirts. There is no washing machine on the ISS and it is difficult to pack enough clothes such as underwear or socks, as every kilogram that is transported into space is extremely expensive.As a result, they cannot change their clothes every day: underwear is changed every two to three days. On average, ISS crew members receive shorts and a T-shirt for each three days of their athletic training program. Your work shirts and trousers are changed on average every 10 days. They usually also get a new T-shirt every ten days that can be worn under the work shirt.

How old was the youngest astronaut?

The youngest astronaut at the time of his first flight is still the Russian cosmonaut Gherman Titov: He was 25 years and 329 days old when he became the second person ever to be with the in August 1961 Vostok-2 took off into space.

How old was the oldest astronaut?

The oldest astronaut in space was the American John Glenn. He was born in July 1921 and was 77 years old when he flew on the Space Shuttle on his second and final mission in October 1998.

Who was the first man in space?

The first man in space was the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. He took off into space on April 12, 1961 on board the Vostok-1.

Who was the first woman in space?

The first woman in space was the Russian Valentina Tereschkowa. She took off into space on board the Vostok-6 in June 1963.

How long was the longest stay in space?

The longest stay in space was completed by the Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov on board the Mir space station, from January 8, 1994 to March 22, 1995, at 437 days, 17 hours and 58 minutes.

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