/ Europe Issued on: 23/11/2022 – 09:50
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet (centre) poses with new recruits Arnaud Prost (left) and Sophie Adenot (right) during a ceremony to unveil the European Space Agency’s new class of career astronauts in Paris on November 23, 2022. © Joël Saget, AFP The European Space Agency (ESA) unveiled its new class of career astronauts on Wednesday, selecting French helicopter pilot Sophie Adenot and four other candidates from a list of more than 22,500 applicants. ESA also selected British Paralympic sprinter John McFall, who will be the first disabled person to train as an astronaut.
In addition to Adenot, the ESA space agency chose Spain’s Pablo Alvarez Fernandez, Britain’s Rosemary Coogan, Belgium’s Raphael Liegeois and Switzerland’s Marco Sieber to be Europe’s next career astronauts.
A helicopter pilot in the French army, Adenot becomes France’s second woman astronaut after Claudie Haigneré.
“I dreamt of this as a little girl,” Adenot, 40, told FRANCE 24. “The next step for us is to go back to school: We have a completely new job to train for.”
Another Frenchman, Arnaud Prost, was selected to join ESA’s reserve pool of astronauts.
The incoming cohort of astronauts offers greater diversity than ESA’s previous astronaut class in 2009, which included just one woman – Italy’s Samantha Cristoforetti.
In a world first, ESA also selected a disabled British man for astronaut training. John McFall, a Paralympic sprinter who lost his leg in a motorbike accident, will join the space training corps to work with designers and engineers to see if he can be the first disabled person to go into space.
While Britain has left the European Union, it remains a member of the European Space Agency.
Budget hikeThe ESA’s 22 member states, whose representatives have been meeting for two days in Paris, also decided on a new budget of €16.9 billion ($17 billion) to fund space exploration, rocket launchers, climate change monitoring and other projects.
That marks a 17 percent increase from the €14.5 billion agreed at the last ministerial council meeting in 2019 but is short of the €18.5 billion requested by ESA director-general Josef Aschbacher.
“With inflation being so high, I have to say that I’m very impressed by this figure,” Aschbacher told the meeting.
He added that the increased funds were necessary for Europe not to “miss the train” in the face of competition from the United States and China.
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire hailed the budget increase as a “great success” that was “beyond expectations”.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)