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How do you become an astronaut?
How do you become an astronaut?

The chance doesn't often exist: after 2008, the European Space Agency is recruiting four to six new astronauts for the first time. You can still apply until May 28th.

astronaut, job, career, space, nasa
astronaut, job, career, space, nasa

It is one of those jobs that children dream of, but which at some point is dismissed as unrealistic: becoming an astronaut. And maybe even fly into space. Four to six men and women now have the opportunity to do so because ESA is looking for new employees.

There are three minimum requirements for this: Applicants must have at least one Master's degree in science, medicine, engineering, mathematics or computer science and have at least three years of professional experience in one of the subjects. Plus: Speak, write and understand English fluently. “There are a number of additional qualifications that are an advantage but not a must,” explains Dagmar Boos, ESA's Head of Competence and Policy Center. “For example, field experience‘in extreme living environments, work experience in scientific laboratories, machine systems, control centers or similar environments. Know-how in situations involving a strong sense of responsibility expect to have experience in life science experiments or outside of their home country. "The complete list can be found in the astronaut handbook and in the call for applications on the ESA careers website.

In the last application phase, only 15 percent were female. This time it is explicitly stated in the job advertisement that "Qualified candidates of all genders" should report as well as “astronauts with physical limitations are selected.” The background: “ESA has been a member since its foundation in 1975 Place of diversity ", says space expert Boos. “We benefit from the different cultures that our organization represents. And we want to keep improving and increasing the number of women in the astronaut corps."

nasa, esa, astronaut, space, rocket, moon, space station, career,
nasa, esa, astronaut, space, rocket, moon, space station, career,

“But ESA goes one step further and is acting as a pioneer by looking for the first time in human history for astronauts with physical disabilities who will then take part in a 'Feasibility Project'. Here it will be examined how it could be feasible to send an astronaut with physical disabilities into space."

The application process takes about 18 months …

… and consists of six levels:

  • Step 1: The application documents and the questionnaire are examined in several different ways.
  • Step 2: Cognitive, technical, motor and personality tests.
  • Step 3: Here the applicants take part in an assessment center, which consists of “additional psychometric and practical tests as well as group exercises”, says HR manager Boos.
  • Step 4: Then the candidates are tested for their physical and psychological fitness.
  • Step 5: Further tests and a panel interview.
  • Step 6: The successful candidates will be invited to an interview with the Director General of ESA, who will make the final selection decision.

We are not looking for a super man or a super woman who can already do everything

Are you still motivated? Then Dagmar Boos reveals the best advice for the application: “There are many websites where you can try out psychological tests. But the tip I can give is just be yourself. Applicants will learn a lot about themselves during the selection process and the results will be best if you authentic and sincere participate. The preparation for the job then takes place in a variety of training courses anyway. We are not looking for a super-man or a super-woman who can already do everything, but for people who bring a real, joy in learning ‘with them, as that is a large part of the work of an astronaut."


For those who have successfully passed the selection process, the training really begins for them. And then it lasts several years: The one-year basic training mainly takes place at the European Astronaut Center. Before you are assigned to a mission, there are several more training sessions: “At this stage, the astronauts also support the operation of ongoing missions. And after you've been assigned a space mission, there is mission-specific training that takes about two years. It is used for Preparation for the respective mission. The focus is on the specific tasks and experiments that the astronauts will perform in space."

And how much do you actually earn as an astronaut?

Depending on professional experience "and other factors", the monthly net salary ranges between € 5,400 and € 8,600.

Boos: "As part of the ESA Convention, this salary is excluded from the national income tax of the ESA member states and comes with an additional package of grants and social benefits."

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