London, May 5 : Rather than scouting for potential astronauts who have a remarkable level of intelligence, courage, fitness and endurance, the European Space Agency (ESA) is looking for scientists and engineers who display team competence, empathy and emotional stability, for future space exploration missions.
In a nutshell, the ESA wants astronerds rather than astronauts.
According to a report in The Times, when European space chiefs begin sifting thousands of applications in a search for four new astronauts, they will be more interested in people who are able to work in a team, rather than the adventurers of early space flight. he European astronaut corps now consists of eight men from six countries aged 43 to 56. The space agency wants an injection of younger talent, aged 27 to 37 and drawn from its 17 member nations.
The search for the new astronauts, and four reserves, to replenish Europe's ageing starforce, would require officials to select from 50,000 applicants, who will undergo include physical and psychological tests over a period of one year.
That will lead to 18 months of basic training, followed by two years of advanced training and, only then, possibly, a space mission.
According to Michel Tognini, a former astronaut and head of the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, where the recruits will train, "It is time for ESA to seek out new talent to bolster its astronaut corps for future manned missions to the International Space Station, the Moon and beyond."
"We want to find high-calibre men and women in Europe to prepare to meet the challenges of human exploration of our solar system in the 21st century," he added.
"What we are looking for is people able to work in a team. In a crisis situation you have to work together," said Gerhard Thiele, head of the agency's astronauts division.
For the recruitment process, ESA has listed characteristics such as "a good memory and reasoning ability, concentration, manual dexterity, high motivation, flexibility, team competence, empathy and emotional stability".
Apart from these abilities, ESA is looking for people who are medically fit and are competent in physics, chemistry, medicine or engineering. Experience as a pilot would prove to be a definite advantage for candidates.