How do I become an astronaut?
The European Astronaut Centre, based in Germany, is responsible for the selection and training of European astronauts. It is part of the European Space Agency (ESA).
The existing astronaut corps comprises 8 members from Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden.
In May 2008, ESA began its first selection campaign for potential astronauts in more than 15 years. Applications were open to citizens from all 17 member states, including the UK. Following an exhausting process of psychological, medical, and professional screening that started with 8413 valid applications, ESA announced the selection of 6 new astronauts. These are:
- Timothy Peake, British;
- Andreas Mogensen, Danish;
- Thomas Pesquet, French;
- Alexander Gerst, German
- Samantha Cristoforetti, Italian
- Luca Parmitano, Italian
They will start their basic training at the EAC in September 2009.
The future of spaceflight in the UK
The UK has never had a programme for the human exploration of space and, in 1986, the Government resolved to concentrate on robotic exploration instead.
However, UK Civil Space Strategy 2008 - 2012 and Beyond promises to review this decision.
BNSC is currently undertaking a study of programme options drawing on the findings of the 2007 UK Space Exploration Working Group. This will review the options for space exploration as well as the UK's existing strengths in robotic exploration.
The UK may not have a manned space programme but several British-born astronauts have been into space.
Helen Sharman was part of the crew on the Juno mission to the Russian MIR space station in 1991. Her mission was funded by British industry and the Soviet Union.
NASA astronauts Michael Foale, Piers Sellers and Nicholas Patrick were all born in Britain but were able to do so because they also have American citizenship.
The European Astronaut Centre website has more details about astronaut training requirements, ESA astronauts, news and events.