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22,000 People Apply for Astronaut Duty as Space Race Heats Up

When one thinks of becoming an astronaut, the first images that come to mind are grueling physical and medical tests. After all, space is not for anyone, as some of the things human bodies are subjected to while up there might end up really hurting someone. But thanks to the technological advancements made over the years, a perfect physical condition will soon no longer be a must.
22,000 people applied for an ESA astronaut position 1 photo
At the beginning of April, the European Space Agency announced it is receiving submissions for future astronaut positions within its ranks. For the first time ever, ESA was willing to accept applications from people with physical disabilities.

The first stage of the process, the signing up part, ended on June 18, and this week the agency announced some provisional numbers. So far, it counted 22,000 applications, including 200 from people with disabilities (full details can be found in the PDF section below the text).

The numbers are simply staggering, and they only go to prove how big of an impact the involvement of private companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, or Virgin Galactic has had on people. Just to put things into perspective, consider the fact that the last time ESA did something like this, in 2008, just a little over 8,400 people applied.

ESA is looking for new talent as it seeks to create something it calls an astronaut reserve, a neverending pool from where it can draw talent for future missions. As far as people with disabilities go, ESA plans to work with them to “determine the adaptations required for such an astronaut to serve as a professional crew member on a future space mission.”

Now that the first stage of the process has ended, ESA professionals will start going through all documents submitted in a screening process. For the physical disability entries, a medical screening will also follow.

ESA expects the entire selection process to last at least one and a half years. No exact number of how many people will be allowed in the astronaut program has been given.

 Download: 2021 ESA astronaut selection data (PDF)


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