Job: European Astronaut

 

What is an astronaut?

An astronaut is a person trained to command or pilot a spacecraft or serve as a crewmember during a space mission. The criteria for the definition of a spaceflight vary; for example, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (World Air Sports Federation) defines it as any flight reaching 100 km altitude.

Is there a centre in Europe for training European astronauts?

Yes, it is the European Astronaut Centre (EAC), ESA’s centre in Cologne, Germany.

What is the typical role of an ESA Astronaut in a crew?

European astronauts will continue to make long-duration flights aboard the ISS, carrying out experiments and operating the Station's systems. They will assemble, activate and check out new Station elements, undertake scientific research and even act as test subjects in life sciences experiments.

What do the astronauts do when they are not training for a flight?

They provide technical support to spaceflight programmes, maintain their proficiency and contribute to public relations, to explain the importance of space in general and human spaceflight in particular.

How long is the astronaut training?

There are three phases: basic training, advanced training and mission-specific training. Astronauts spend half of their careers in training.

Immediately after recruitment, the astronaut candidates will undergo a 1-year basic training at their duty station, the European Astronaut Centre. Training begins with information on ESA and other space agencies and their main space programmes. Basic knowledge of space engineering, electrical engineering and the different science disciplines is then provided. The third block deals with the major systems of the ISS and transportation systems such as Shuttle and Soyuz. Basic training concludes by focusing on specific topics such as underwater diving (as the basis for EVA training), robotics, rendezvous and docking, the Russian language, and human behaviour and performance training.

Advanced Training also takes a year and provides international astronauts from all ISS partners with the knowledge and in-depth skills to operate, service and maintain ISS modules, systems, payloads and transport vehicles. The training is now more detailed but still generic, offering the expertise that future crewmembers would need for almost any flight to the ISS. It also entails specialisation in some functions, such as resource and data operations, robotics, navigation, maintenance, intra- and extra-vehicular activities, medical aspects and payloads. These are covered at all the partners’ facilities in order to provide first-hand familiarity with specific flight elements and operations.

The final stage is the Increment-Specific Training (an ‘Increment’ is the period between crew exchange aboard the Station), which gives assigned and backup crews the knowledge and skills required for their specific mission. Training together for about 18 months fosters team integration and spirit.

Do male and female candidates have different training?

There is no difference between the training of male and female candidates.

Last update: 27 March 2008

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