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European Space Agency names new astronauts, agrees record budget
By Mathieu Rabechault and Juliette Collen
Paris (AFP) Nov 23, 2022

The new astronauts selected by the European Space Agency
Paris (AFP) Nov 23, 2022 - The European Space Agency named five new career astronauts Wednesday, as well as the world's first recruit with a disability and 11 other reserve astronauts who will have to wait for their chance to go to space.

- Sophie Adenot -

The 40-year-old French engineer has flown 3,000 flight hours as a helicopter test pilot.

Her masters at MIT in the United States included work on how to design a centrifuge to help astronauts train for different levels of gravity.

Adenot spent 15 years giving lectures about the importance of science and was awarded the French National Order of Merit in 2022 for being an ambassador for gender equality in science.

- Rosemary Coogan -

The 31-year-old Briton earned a PhD in astronomy at the University of Sussex in southeast England and has researched extra-terrestrial physics in Germany.

She joined the French space agency CNES earlier this year where she analysed images from the James Webb space telescope, among other projects.

"I'm European but from the UK," she said at the announcement ceremony. Though Britain left the European Union, it remains in the ESA.

- Pablo Alvarez Fernandez -

The Spanish aerospace engineer, born in 1988, already has experience with one of the ESA's main projects -- he served as a mechanical architect on the ExoMars rover for aerospace firm Airbus.

He is fluent in Spanish, English, French and Polish, having done his master's degree at the Warsaw University of Technology.

- Raphael Liegeois -

The 34-year-old Belgian has studied biomedical engineering and neuroscience in Belgium and France.

The avid hot air balloon pilot also researched brain dynamics in health and disease, the ESA said.

Liegeois taught courses in neuroengineering and statistics at Switzerland's University of Geneva last year.

In 2017, he spent four months cycling with his wife from Singapore to Belgium, meeting poets along the way.

- Marco Sieber -

Born in 1989, the Swiss doctor has been working in emergency helicopter rescue as well as being a resident urologist at a hospital in Switzerland.

Before receiving a medical degree at the University of Bern, Sieber was a sergeant in the Swiss army, specialising in paratrooper training.

He dreamt of becoming an astronaut as child, he said in an ESA video.

"This fascination never really faded away," he said.

- John McFall -

The ESA selected McFall, a 41-year-old Paralympian, as history's first ever astronaut recruit with a disability. He will join the agency's "parastronaut feasibility programme".

McFall walks with a prosthesis after his right leg was amputated due to a motorcycle accident when he was 19.

He represented Great Britain at the 2008 Summer Paralympics, winning bronze in the T42 200 metres.

McFall earned a degree in medicine and surgery in 2014 and has been working as a trauma and orthopaedic specialist in the south of England, the ESA said.

"I was incredibly excited and proud of myself that I got through the selection process," McFall said.

"I'd never thought that being an astronaut was a possibility."

- Astronaut reserve -

For the first time, the European Space Agency established a reserve pool of 11 astronauts. They were successful during the selection process, the ESA said, but were not able to be recruited yet.

If an opportunity comes up, they will start training -- but for the moment will stay in their old jobs.

There are six women and five men in the reserve -- two from Italy, two from Germany, and one from Spain, Austria, France, Britain, Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

The European Space Agency announced five new career astronauts as well as history's first astronaut recruit with a disability on Wednesday after adopting a record budget to fund its projects.

The two female and three male career astronauts "will start working immediately," ESA director-general Josef Aschbacher told a ministerial council meeting in Paris.

From more than 22,500 applicants, the agency chose France's Sophie Adenot, Spain's Pablo Alvarez Fernandez, Britain's Rosemary Coogan, Belgium's Raphael Liegeois and Switzerland's Marco Sieber.

"I'm European but from the UK," Coogan told the ceremony. Though Britain has left the European Union, it remains in the ESA.

The new recruits start training next year and are not expected to blast off into space on a mission until 2026.

They will join the astronauts from the ESA's previous 2009 astronaut class, which include Britain's Timothy Peake and France's Thomas Pesquet. It is from that previous class that an astronaut will be selected to go to the Moon as part of NASA's Artemis mission.

"No one is retiring today," Pesquet said, advising the new recruits to "hang on tight".

The ESA also announced the first astronaut recruit with a physical disability, British doctor and Paralympian John McFall, who will join a separate "parastronaut feasibility programme".

The 41-year-old's right leg was amputated after a motorcycle accident at the age of 18. He became a sprinter, winning bronze at the 2008 Paralympics.

"It had been quite a whirlwind experience, given that as an amputee I'd never thought being an astronaut was a possibility," he said.

The ESA also established an astronaut reserve of six women and five men who passed the selection process and can be called up in future if needed.

- New budget -

The new astronauts were named after two days of tough talks by ministers from the ESA's 22 member states meeting in Paris to decide on the agency's future funding.

They settled on a budget of 16.9 billion euros ($17.5 billion) for the next three years, a 17-percent increase from the 14.5 billion euros agreed at the last ministerial council meeting in 2019.

But it was well short of the 18.5 billion requested by Aschbacher.

"With inflation being so high, I have to say that I'm very impressed by this figure," Aschbacher told the meeting.

Aschbacher said the increased funds were necessary for Europe not to "miss the train" in the face of competition in space from the United States and China.

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire hailed a "great success" that was "beyond expectations".

Negotiations about each country's contribution continued until the last moment before the announcement.

The biggest contributors were Germany with 3.5 billion euros, France on 3.25 billion euros and Italy at 3.1 billion euros.

However the total committed remains far below NASA's budget of $24 billion for 2022 alone.

Earth observation programmes, which monitor climate change back on Earth, had a six percent funding increase to almost 2.7 billion euros.

Robotic and human exploration's budget jumped 36 percent to 2.7 billion, while telecommunications rose 19 percent to 1.9 billion euros.

- Rocket boost -

The budget for rocket launcher systems was increased by a third to 2.8 billion euros.

Launchers, which were a subject of delicate negotiations, are crucial for Europe to be able send missions into space without outside help.

The ESA has struggled to get off the ground since Russia withdrew its Soyuz rockets earlier this year in response to European sanctions over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The job has been made more difficult by delays to its flagship Ariane 6 rocket, which was supposed to have its maiden flight in 2020 but will now blast off at the end of next year.

The ESA has even had to resort to using the Falcon 9 rockets of its rival SpaceX to launch two upcoming scientific missions.

The negotiations were given a boost on Tuesday when France, Germany and Italy announced their support for Ariane 6, the smaller Vega-C launcher and European-made micro and mini launch systems.

The ExoMars mission, which has been left without a ride after Russia withdrew its rockets, will go ahead with US help, Aschbacher said.

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The new astronauts selected by the European Space Agency
Paris (AFP) Nov 23, 2022
The European Space Agency named five new career astronauts Wednesday, as well as the world's first recruit with a disability and 11 other reserve astronauts who will have to wait for their chance to go to space. - Sophie Adenot - The 40-year-old French engineer has flown 3,000 flight hours as a helicopter test pilot. Her masters at MIT in the United States included work on how to design a centrifuge to help astronauts train for different levels of gravity. Adenot spent 15 years giving le ... read more

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