Since 1975, when Esa was established, 28 astronauts have been recruited. Fifteen of them are still active. What skills and personality traits did the successful candidates have in common?
All but three Esa astronauts – past and present – have studied a type of engineering or physics. The exceptions to the rule studied medicine. Out of the 28 successful candidates, half of them had already had experience flying aircraft before applying.
Modern space missions can be several months long, so it’s important that astronauts have the right psychological features to cope with living in space. Current Esa astronauts have passed tests to prove they are highly motivated, flexible, empathetic, emotionally stable, gregarious and adept at working in a multicultural team. Ninety-five percent (or 856) of the candidates in Esa’s latest selection campaign, which picked Tim Peake, were dismissed because of failure against these personality requirements.
Before 2009, the majority of Esa astronauts came from France, Germany and Italy. But in the most recent recruitment campaign, Tim became the first Briton to join the agency as an astronaut – perhaps paving the way for many more.