Europe restricts hunt for next astronauts, considers crewed flights


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The European Space Agency has narrowed the list of candidates for its next generation of astronauts, including dozens who have physical disabilities.

The agency announced last year that it had received a record 22,589 applications from people hoping to become the continent’s next generation of space travelers.

The ESA said on Tuesday it had whittled them down to fewer than 1,400 – 29 of whom have physical disabilities – and hoped to narrow the shortlist to several dozen applicants by the end of the year for the four to six positions in its astronaut training program. .

The agency’s chief executive, Josef Aschbacher, said the selection process would be accompanied by a feasibility study to determine the implications of selecting candidates with disabilities “but, yes, we are committed at ESA to open ‘space for all’.

ESA has relied for decades on its Russian and American counterparts to launch astronauts into space. Currently the agency has several places reserved on American commercial launches.

But Aschbacher said Europe could finally get its own crewed spacecraft if ESA member states approve the idea at a meeting later this year.

“We’re not just talking about launches, we’re talking about human exploration,” he said, adding that future missions would seek to send astronauts to the moon “and beyond.”

Europe seeks disabled astronauts, more women in space

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