In general, people applying to become European Astronauts (applicants) will need to submit many detailed pieces of information, participate in several rounds of psychological and medical screenings and participate in several interviews. What can you expect during the medical and psychological selection process when I apply to become an ESA Astronaut?
The psychological and medical selection is a rather lengthy process, covering a time span of about 10 months, separated into several phases. You will of course not be fully engaged during this entire time. Details about the time effort in each phase are provided in more detail below.
JAR-FCL 3, Class 2 medical examination certificate
One of the key first things you’ll need to do is to obtain a JAR-FCL 3, Class 2 medical examination certificate, or equivalent. This is a general physical examination performed by an authorized medical centre under the authorization of your national aviation authority. Such a medical certificate is issued for example, if you would like to become a glider pilot or a private pilot on a single-engine aircraft.
If an applicant does not meet the minimum medical requirements to become a private pilot, the more stringent medical requirements for an astronaut will definitely not be met. Therefore, this is the first medical screening step in the application process.
You can find more information about where to obtain this certificate from your national aviation authorities, on the internet and for example in your local aviation clubs. Please be aware, that you will have to cover the costs related to this examination.
You’ll need to upload a PDF copy of this JAR-FCL 3, Class 2 medical certificate, or equivalent, to the website. You should not upload any of your medical data, only the medical certificate is sufficient.
Next you’ll be asked to provide answers to thorough medical questionnaires. You’ll be asked to provide answers to questions about your medical history, your current health status, your family medical history, your social habits and lifestyle, any history of disease in your family, etc. The answers you provide to this questionnaire will be strictly confidential and sent directly and only to the medical facility that will review this confidential information.
Psychological Stage 1
After a review of all online applications, there will be a selection of applicants to continue the process. At this point, if you are invited to the first round of psychological screening, you shall be referred to as a ‘candidate’. Candidates will be invited in groups for a round of testing at a psychological center called Psychological Stage 1.
At the same time you are invited as a candidate to Psychological Stage 1, your answers to the medical questionnaires will also be reviewed by the designated medical facility. Once at the psychology centre, you will be assessed on your basic aptitudes and personality factors using computer-based and/or paper tests in a group setting. You can assume a full week effort on your side, including travel, for this stage of evaluations.
Candidates that pass this stage will be invited to Psychological Stage 2.
Psychological Stage 2
The Psychological Stage 2 process will focus on evaluating you using behaviour-oriented assessment in group exercises, role-playing, interviews and computer-based simulations. Again, you can expect roughly a one week involvement on your side, including related travel to the testing site.
This stage verifies your personality and behavior in the context of the future profession, essentially verifying that you are qualified to perform the tasks and duties of an astronaut. Candidates that are positively reviewed in this stage may begin to also start cursory, non-invasive medical examinations via the Medical Selection process.
After you uploaded your valid JAR-FCL 3, Class 2 medical examination certificate, or equivalent, you then provided answers to more specific medical questionnaires. This was reviewed while you were going through the Psychological Stages 1 and 2. If you have successfully passed these evaluations and the psychological tests, you will now go through a battery of medical examinations to assess your current health status and determine your relative risks for developing diseases in the future.
The purpose here is to screen for candidates that are free from disease, in excellent health and have the least likelihood for developing diseases in the future. In general, the examinations are designed from established standards in the following medical systems:
1. General Medicine
2. Ears, Nose, Throat
7. Abdomen and Digestive System
8. Endocrine and Metabolic
10. Musculoskeletal and Orthopedics
13. Psychiatry and Human Behavior
14. Obstetrics and Gynecology
16. Infectious Diseases
18. Radiation Exposure
20. Physical Fitness
21. Special Tests as Indicated
This process will require a 10 day commitment (including travel) from you. There will be considerable care taken to make sure that you are not overly stressed or fatigued (e.g., jetlag after travel) during these medical examinations. For example, you will not be asked to perform a maximum effort stress test on a treadmill immediately after lunch. Additionally, test results may not be conclusive, so you may be asked to come back for follow-up tests, or to repeat a test to verify the results. Once all candidates have been medically evaluated, their confidential medical files will be sent to the ESA Medical Board.
ESA Medical Board
The ESA Medical Board will be comprised of numerous European medical experts representing the various medical disciplines you were tested in during the medical screening process. These experts will meet to review each candidates medical test results. From this review, the ESA Medical Board will make recommendations for candidates to continue in the selection process. At this point in time, the psychological and medical selection process has come to an end.