The European Space Agency (ESA) unveiled its new cohort of career astronauts on Wednesday, selecting French helicopter pilot Sophie Adenot and four other candidates from a list of more than 22,500 candidates. ESA has also selected British Paralympic sprinter John McFall, who will be the first disabled person to train as an astronaut.
In addition to Adenot, the ESA space agency has chosen Spaniard Pablo Alvarez Fernandez, Briton Rosemary Coogan, Belgian Raphael Liegeois and Swiss Marco Sieber to be the next European career astronauts.
Helicopter pilot in the French army, Adenot becomes the second female French astronaut after Claudie Haigneré.
“I dreamed about it when I was a little girl,” Adenot, 40, told FRANCE 24. “The next step for us is to go back to school: we have a whole new job to train for.”
Another Frenchman, Arnaud Prost, has been selected to join ESA’s astronaut reserve.
The new cohort of astronauts offers greater diversity than ESA’s previous astronaut class in 2009, which included just one woman – Italian Samantha Cristoforetti.
In a world first, ESA has also selected a disabled Briton for astronaut training. John McFall, a Paralympic sprinter who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, will join the Space Training Corps to work with designers and engineers to see if he can be the first disabled person to go into space.
Although Britain has left the European Union, it remains a member of the European Space Agency.
The 22 member states of ESA, whose representatives have been meeting for two days in Paris, have also decided on a new budget of 16.9 billion euros (17 billion dollars) to finance space exploration, rocket launchers, climate change monitoring and other projects.
This represents a 17% increase on the €14.5 billion agreed at the last Ministerial Council meeting in 2019, but is lower than the €18.5 billion requested by ESA’s Director General, Joseph Aschbacher.
“With inflation so high, I have to say that I am very impressed with this figure,” Aschbacher said during the meeting.
He added that the increase in funds was necessary so that Europe does not “miss the boat” in the face of competition from the United States and China.
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire hailed the budget increase as a “great success” “beyond expectations”.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)