What are the disadvantages of being an astronaut

Information regarding the ESA Astronaut Selection 2021

© Prof. Dr. Ulrich Walter
D-2 astronaut

Chair of Space Technology
Technical University of Munich

April 1, 2021

This website provides information on the ESA astronaut selection process 2021/2022, which is important and interesting for applicants.

The basis of this information is the ESA website questions about astronaut selection and the ESA Astronaut Selection 2021 Media Kit, specialist publications and personal experience in astronaut selection.

This time ESA is looking for 4-6 new professional astronauts

  • Areas of application
    Operations to the International Space Station and the moon can be expected

U. Walter:
For missions to the ISS, one ESA astronaut per year can be expected, as before, to the moon (1 US flight every 2 years. Not only moon landings, but also to the orbital station Lunar Gateway), however, only 1 ESA astronaut about every 6 Years.
The new American President Joe Biden has announced that he may want to operate the International Space Station beyond 2028 and continue Trump's exploration missions (Artemis missions to the moon and later (in the 2030s) to Mars).

  • General qualities of astronauts
    ESA: Candidate astronauts should have excellent fine motor skills, strong analytical and reporting skills, the ability to quickly simulate and synthesize complex information, and sound decision-making skills. You need to ingest a lot of complex information during your training and learn to prioritize it to ensure you maintain a consistently high standard in space.
    General characteristics include, but are not limited to: good thinking skills, ability to work under stress, memory and concentration skills, spatial orientation skills, psychomotor coordination and manual dexterity. The personality of a candidate should show a high level of motivation, flexibility, sociability, empathy, non-attack and emotional stability.
    Astronauts should be passionate about sharing their knowledge with a willingness to attract a wide audience - especially the younger generation - to ESA and space exploration.

U. Walter: On the current occasion (April 22, 2021. A newspaper came up to me.) A warning to all applicants. DO NOT contact the media to cover your application and selection. If you are approached by the media and asked to accompany you during the selection process, do not do it. Since the selection is very interesting to the public, when it comes to finding a candidate, the media goes after such people very much. It has always been like that.

You should not work with the media because this usually leads to the applicant being excluded in test phase 2 (see below). Because if your name appears in the press and ESA finds out (which is very likely, because it monitors media effectiveness very closely), then ESA suspects that you not only have an excessive need for representation, but also try to get through the press To positively influence the selection process for yourself. I know such exclusion cases.


The basic requirements for a successful application are according to ESA:

  • You must be a citizen of one of the following ESA member states or associated member states:
    Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Associated: Slovenia and Latvia
  • Master's degree (or higher) from a recognized academic institution in natural sciences (including physics, geology, atmosphere), or oceanology, life sciences, medicine, engineering, mathematics, computer science;
  • Or a degree as an experimental test pilot and / or test engineer from an official experimental test pilot school. These institutions include EPNER (France), ETPS (England), USAF TPS (US Air Force) and USNTPS (US Navy), but also the commercial training school NTPS. More on this can be found in this EASA document.
  • Three years of relevant professional experience after completing the degree and a progressive increase in responsibilities.

U. Walter: A doctorate also counts as work experience.

  • Acceptable age: Not older than 50 years.

U. Walter: With this requirement, ESA meets the requirement that all ESA advertisements for an ESA position must include people up to this age. In view of the long training period (at least 5 years) and a maximum age of around 55, applicants older than around 40 will hardly be accepted. The ideal age is 30-35 years. Since the ESA is heavily based on NASA selections, I recommend for further information this article about NASA selections.)

  • Fluent English (minimum GER C1). Knowledge of additional languages ​​(minimum GER B1-B2) is an advantage.
  • Strong motivation and ability to deal with irregular work hours, frequent travel and long absences from home, family and normal social life.
  • Flexible in relation to the workplace (inside or outside Europe)
  • Keep calm under pressure

U. Walter: What is meant here is a psychological or time pressure.

  • Willing to take part in life science experiments.

U. Walter: ESA understands this to mean especially examinations and experiments on one's own body.

Further specific requirements:

  • Submission of a European Part MED medical examination of class 2 (Private Pilot Medical Certificate) performed by an aviation medic certified by the national Aviation Medical Authority. A list of all German aviation medical examination centers can be found here.
  • The applicant must be disease free.
  • The applicant must be free from drugs, alcohol or tobacco.

U. Walter: That doesn't mean that as an astronaut you are absolutely not allowed to consume alcohol or tobacco. On the contrary, a normal astronaut is expected to drink some alcohol in a social environment (see above).

  • The applicant must have the normal range of motion and functionality in all joints. This requirement does not apply to astronaut applicants with physical disabilities.
  • The applicant must be in both eyes have a visual acuity of 100% (= 20/20 vision) or after correction with glasses or contact lenses.
    Wearing glasses or contact lenses is not in itself a cause for disqualification, but would be assessed if it is known that a visual defect is rapidly progressing and could be a cause for disqualification. Minor visual defects that require corrective lenses to achieve perfect vision are acceptable.
    Some surgical interventions to correct visual acuity may result in disqualification, while other operations are acceptable - each case is assessed individually.

U. Walter: So far, vision corrections with less than or equal to 2 diopters have been accepted. NASA has been accepting the two refractive surgical interventions of the eye PRK and LASIK for 5 years. I assume that this is why ESA will accept both this time.

  • Applicants must not be hard of hearing, i.e. they must have a hearing ability of 25 dB or better (better ear) as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • The applicant must be free from mental disorders.
  • The applicant must demonstrate cognitive, mental and personality skills in order to be able to work efficiently in an intellectually and socially demanding environment.
  • Physical fitness. ESA: It is important to be healthy, but ESA is not looking for extreme fitness or top athletes. Overdeveloped muscles can actually be a disadvantage for astronauts in weightlessness.

U. Walter: You have to expect to be sorted out as a competitive athlete. Too many muscles are definitely not good for an astronaut. A heart muscle that is too large leads to cardiac arrhythmias in space due to cardiac stress. In addition, runners usually suffer from it Orthostatic problems. No astronaut should have the latter problem when he comes back to earth from space.

Online application, March 31, 2021 - April 28, 2021

  • On this ESA page there is information about the astronaut application.
  • This is the official ESA advertisement text with requirements for the astronaut job. Read it through carefully, because your answers to the questions that are asked of you during the online application must conform to the requirements described.
  • You will then be redirected to another page where you first have to create your own application account.
  • You can now apply online. A full list of the questions asked can be found here.

U. Walter: The answers you give here will be checked later in the first round of the interview (see below).

When applying online, the following documents must be uploaded in the formats DOCX, PDF, Image and Text (MSG, PPT and XLS file types are not accepted for CVs or cover letters)

  • a Europass CV (in English)
  • a letter of motivation (in English)
  • other voluntary documents (such as a copy of your passport)


You do not have to submit the application immediately, you can save the current status and fill it in the next time you log in to your account.

ATTENTION: Once entered, data cannot be changed on subsequent visits! So think carefully about what to say the first time! My tip: Read the complete list of questions asked carefully and save the answers in a separate Word file and then revise them if necessary and only then answer the ESA online questions using cut & paste.

ATTENTION: Be careful when applying online. All incomplete, late or incorrectly submitted applications will be ignored without exception.

Here is an overview of the number of applicants for the last ESA selection in 2008

U. Walter: This time, too, we have to expect around 10,000 applicants.