The European Space Agency ESA has presented its newest team of astronauts. The group consists of five people, including a Belgian. The new crew will be trained to go to the ISS space station from the beginning of next year. In the future, they may also go to the moon.
The new Belgian astronaut is named Raphaël Liégeois, born in 1988. He can become the first Waal in space. The others are Sophie Adenot (France, 1982), Pablo Álvarez Fernández (Spain, 1988), Rosemary Coogan (United Kingdom, 1991) and Marco Sieber (Switzerland, 1989). The ESA has also appointed eleven reserve astronauts. For the time being, they will keep their regular job, but will receive basic training and can be called up if a place in a mission becomes available. The reserves come from Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Sweden.
The ESA also presented its first physically disabled astronaut, the Briton John McFall (1981). He lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident at the age of 19. As an athlete, he competed for the United Kingdom at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. He then captured a bronze medal in the 100 meters for people with a prosthesis. In 2007 he became world champion in the 200 meters in the Groningen Stadskanaal and in 2006 he won silver and bronze at the world championships in Assen. It is not yet certain that he will actually go into space as a ‘parastronaut’. The project aims to see if a space trip is possible and what needs to be done for it.
The ESA announced last year that it was looking for new astronauts. The organization subsequently received 22,523 applications, including 982 from the Netherlands. Furthermore, 257 people applied for the place of parastronaut, including 13 Dutch.
The astronauts were presented in Paris, where the ministers of the Netherlands and the other ESA Member States discussed the budget and plans for the coming years. ESA has 16.9 billion euros to spend over the next five years, up from 14.5 billion in the past five years and 10.3 billion in the five years before. The Dutch contribution increases from 345 million to 465 million euros.
ESA is focusing on two major projects in the coming years. Rosalind Franklin is scheduled to go to Mars in 2028, with U.S. help. Europe previously collaborated with Russia on the mission, but just before the launch, cooperation stopped due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In addition, Europe wants to develop its own lunar lander in the coming years, the EL3, also called Argonaut.