With ESA astronaut Tim Peake stepping out of the International Space Station tomorrow, have you ever wanted to know if you have what it takes to be an astronaut? ESA is offering a trial version of a test developed for future astronauts for you to try at home – and by taking part you will help us select a new generation of astronauts.
Trainers at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany are always looking for ways to improve their methods. Part of the job is to find out who is suitable to become an astronaut in the first place.
One of the many challenges faced by astronauts is working in three-dimensional space. In a weightless universe, up can become down and left can become right depending on which way you are floating.
Everybody knows the feeling of disorientation on visiting a new city, and working in space adds a whole new dimension – literally. During a spacewalk this effect intensifies as the blackness of space offers little for astronauts’ brains to use for orientation.
Working and using objects in this environment is something astronauts must excel at and so is a key aptitude that trainers look for in selecting candidates.
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The head of ESA’s astronaut centre, Frank De Winne, says: “ESA is not currently running a selection campaign but developing tests for astronaut selection takes time and needs to be done right.”
Your task is to move and turn an object to fit exactly in a new position in three dimensions. The task is made harder because all your moves need to be programmed beforehand and the goal is to use as few as possible.
European Astronaut Centre experts in robotics and spacecraft docking worked with psychologists to design the test.
ESA’s Head of Astronaut Training, Rüdiger Seine, explains: “By ‘playing’ with the test online you will help the team validate it, essentially making sure it works. For us, the more people who participate, the better.”
Click here to go to the test website and start thinking like an astronaut as you work your way through progressively harder levels.