Europe’s space agency is recruiting astronauts after over a decade — and its looking for women and people with physical disabilities
- The European Space Agency (ESA) is finally opening its doors to allow more astronauts to join in on its missions after a span of 11 years.
- The apex space agency has launched the
Parastronaut Feasibility Project, specifically looking to hire astronauts with physical disabilities.
- It is also looking to push women hires in order to address the imbalance in the number of females who have been to outer space.
AdvertisementThe European Space Agency (ESA) is on a hiring spree after halting recruitments for over 11 years. Looking for people who want to explore the Moon, the stars and everything in between — the agency is putting a special impetus on hiring female astronauts and those with physical disabilities.
It plans to accept four to six career astronauts, who will be a part of the permanent staff at the ESA. It also plans to bring on 20 ‘reserve astronauts’ who will be kept on the bench until there are shorter missions of the docket, like a trip to the International Space Station (ISS).
A part of this drive is the Parastronaut Feasibility Project. According to Europe’s apex space agency, this is the first time that a planetary exploration outfit has opened up the application process to people with disabilities.
Physical disabilities only
The Parastronaut Feasibility Project is a signal that the ESA is ready to invest in making the necessary adaptations to space hardware to enable these individuals to head into space.
NASA’s European twin has not specified how many people with physical disabilities it plans to hire, but did indicate the opportunity will be open to one or more applicants.
“To go farther than we ever have before, we need to look wider than we ever have before,” said the ESA’s Director General Jan Worner in a statement.
In order to ascertain mission safety, other types of disabilities, like mental disabilities, wouldn’t be eligible to apply. “For the parastronaut feasibility project ESA is looking for individual(s) who are psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified to be an astronaut,” ESA said in a statement.
According to the New York Times, ESA consulted with the Paralympic Committee to determine exactly which physical disabilities would work consistently with space missions. It is currently accepting applicants with leg amputations, significant differences in leg length or who are very short — typically, space agencies have a minimum height requirement for astronaut candidates.
Pushing for diversity with women applicants
When it comes to hiring women, ESA is trying to address the imbalance. Globally, only 65 of the 650 people who have been in outer space have been women. And, more than 50 of them were from the United States. The ESA itself has only sent two women to space — Claudie Haignere and Samantha Cristoforetti.
“ESA is strongly encouraging women to apply, because we are seeking to expand gender diversity in our ranks,” the space agency said in a statement.
The applications for astronaut vacancy at the ESA will open on March 31. Interested candidates will have till May 28 to apply. But, be sure to buckle down for the long haul. There’s a six-stage selection process to determine whether or not an applicant will be accepted. The ESA expects the process to take till October 22 — that’s an 18-month long wait.
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