26 Austrians still in the ESA astronaut race

Insgesamt 466 Österreicherinnen und Österreicher haben im vergangenen Jahr eine Bewerbung zum Astronauten bei der Europäischen Weltraumorganisation ESA eingereicht.

According to ESA, 13 women and 13 men made it to the second round. However, the chances of getting one of the coveted but rare jobs are quite slim: after all, there were 22,523 applications across Europe, and 530 women and 831 men made it to the next round.

Four to six permanent space travellers are wanted, as well as a "reserve" of up to 20 people. At the end of the application period in mid-2021, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher, who comes from Austria, spoke of tough competition: "It's a dream job to be an astronaut." The selection process has several stages. Europe's new spacewalkers are to be decided in autumn, as ESA has now explained in view of the publication of the final applicant numbers.

For this reserve pool, ESA is also explicitly looking for an astronaut with a certain degree of physical disability. For the "Parastronaut" programme, 257 people applied, 27 made it to the next round after screening by the space agency.


Cognitive, technical and motor tests

They and the remaining 1,361 candidates in the general astronaut selection will now have to pass cognitive, technical and motor coordination as well as personality tests on a special test day. In a further step, psychological interviews, group tests and a medical examination will then be conducted. Those who remain in the selection process are then invited to another interview.

Among the Austrian female applicants, 13 out of 116 cleared the first hurdle, and of the 350 male applicants, 13 also remain in the running for the coveted top jobs. By far the most interested applicants came from France: among the 7,087 applicants, 404 reached the second stage. Of the 3,695 Germans, 194 are still in the running, and of the 2,000 Britons, 166 met the selection criteria.