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Europe's new astronauts were presented at a press conference
Europe's new astronauts were presented at a press conference at ESA Headquarters

ESA selects six of the best

With the International Space Station (ISS) now almost complete, Europe’s human spaceflight programme is looking to the future. On 20 May 2009, ESA announced the six winners of a year-long competition to find the next generation of astronauts. The newcomers will now join the European Astronaut Corps and start training to prepare for future missions to the ISS, and beyond. They are the first new recruits to join the European Astronaut Corps since 1992.

The class of 2009, all in their thirties, includes:

1. Samantha Cristoforetti (Italian), a fighter pilot with the Italian Air Force.
2. Alexander Gerst (German), a physicist and scientific researcher.
3. Andreas Mogensen (Danish), an engineer and expert on spacecraft guidance and control.
4. Luca Parmitano (Italian), a pilot with the Italian Air Force.
5. Timothy Peake (British), a military test pilot with the UK armed forces.
6. Thomas Pesquet (French), a research engineer who is now a pilot for Air France.

Europe's new astronauts were presented at a press conference
Europe's new astronauts were presented at a press conference at ESA Headquarters

All of the newcomers are extremely fit and enjoy active leisure pursuits such as mountaineering, swimming, scuba diving, climbing and skydiving.

The search for talented individuals who wanted to join the European Astronaut Corps began in May 2008. More than 8,400 people sent in application forms. Over the following months, the applicants were carefully screened until the six outstanding candidates remained. The rookie astronauts will start their basic training at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. They will also join a new class of international astronauts who will be prepared for missions to the International Space Station from 2013 onwards. It is also likely that many of them will one day fly to the Moon.

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