Europe narrows hunt for next astronauts, eyes crewed flights

Europe narrows hunt for next astronauts, eyes crewed flights


BERLIN (AP) — The European Space Agency has narrowed down the candidate list for its next generation of astronauts, including dozens who have a physical disability.

The agency announced last year that it had received a record number of 22,589 applicants from people hoping to become the continent’s next generation of space travelers.

ESA said Tuesday it has reduced these to fewer than 1,400 — including 29 of whom have a physical disability — and hoped to cut the shortlist down to several tens of candidates by the end of the year for the four to six positions on its astronaut training program.

The agency's director-general, Josef Aschbacher, said the selection process would be accompanied by a feasibility study to determine the implications of choosing candidates with disabilities “but, yes, we are committed at ESA to open space to everyone.”

ESA has for decades relied on its Russian and American counterparts to launch astronauts into space. Currently the agency has several places booked on American commercial launches.

But Aschbacher said Europe may finally get its own crewed spacecraft if ESA member states approve the idea at a meeting later this year.

“We are not only talking of launches, we are talking of human exploration,” he said, adding that future missions would seek to send astronauts to the moon “and beyond.”

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