“Even if you doubt yourself, even though you think there is better than you, you really have nothing to lose. So go on, apply, and see you in training! “, at launched astronaut Thomas Pesquet, facing the camera, from the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, from where he is preparing his second mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS), scheduled for spring. It was Tuesday, February 16, during a conference organized by the European Space Agency (ESA). Two days later, NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars, a new stage in an epic that is the dream of millions of young people around the world.

Going into space, an inaccessible dream? Maybe not completely. For the first time in eleven years, ESA is preparing to launch a campaign (its fourth since 1978) to recruit four to six astronauts. The start of a new chapter in space exploration. All enthusiasts with a master’s degree in a scientific field (natural sciences, physics, medicine, IT, etc.) and three years of professional experience will be able to apply from March 31 to May 28, 2021 on the ESA website. And there should be many.

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“Space is a sector that still inspires great dreams. Thomas Pesquet and the five other Europeans selected at the same time as him have become so much media that many young people are tempted to follow in their footsteps ”, assures Stéphanie Lizy-Destrez, teacher-researcher at ISAE-Supaéro, a French engineering school specializing in the aerospace sector, from which Thomas Pesquet graduated in 2001.

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Walk on mars

At ISAE-Supaéro, the number of students increased from 847 in 2016-2017 to 1,033 in 2020-2021. Same trend at Estaca, another engineering school located in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines and Laval, which has a specialization in aerospace. “When I started teaching seven years ago, there were only about 20 students in the space specialty. Today, they are more than 70 ”, remembers the head of the aerospace sector Didier Gignac, who works in parallel as an engineer at ArianeGroup.

The roadmap proposed by ESA to its future recruits is attractive: to carry out experiments in zero gravity aboard the International Space Station at an altitude of 400 km, to carry out circumlunar flights of fifteen to thirty days, to set up a base on the Moon, or even, one day, walk on Mars.

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