The European Space Agency has named five new career astronauts, two women and three men. While member countries agreed to increase the agency’s budget by 17% to compete with the United States and China.
The ESA’s new class of career astronauts includes France’s Sophie Adenot, a helicopter test pilot. As well as Pablo Alvarez Fernandez from Spain, Rosemary Coogan from the United Kingdom, Raphael Liegeois from Belgium, and Marco Sieber from Switzerland.
Eleven reserve astronauts, including Frenchman Arnaud Prost, were also recruited.
These are the first new European astronaut recruits since 2009. They were chosen from a pool of over 22,500 applicants.
The ESA also announced its first astronaut recruit with a physical disability, Britain’s John McFall. He will participate in an experimental “parastronaut” programme. It is aimed at determining what people with disabilities require to participate in future missions.
McFall had his leg amputated after a motorcycle accident when he was 18. He competed as a Paralympic sprinter for the United Kingdom. And now works as a trauma and orthopaedic specialist in the south of England.
The ESA’s 22 member states also agreed to increase funding for the agency. It increased to 16.9 billion euros over the next three years. It is a 17 percent increase over the 2019 budget. But less than the 18.5 billion requested by ESA Director-General Josef Aschbacher.
Because of the funding gap, Aschbacher stated that programmes would be adjusted but not dropped.
“We’ll have to see what can and cannot be done on the same scale as was previously planned,” he said.
The budget includes funds for space exploration rocket launches, climate research, and other projects.
The updated budget, according to French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who hosted the meeting in Paris, “gives Europe the political, scientific, and financial means to reinforce its space sovereignty between the United States and China.”