What is the role of reserve astronauts?

What is the role of reserve astronauts?

Their names are Aleš Svoboda, Carmen Possnig or Marcus Wandt. Do these names mean anything to you? However, they were officially astronauts for a fortnight and provided by the European Space Agency (ESA). 17 candidates He chose from 22,500 applicants. But unlike the French Sophie AdenotThese three are selected “Allottees” not “Officers”.

They are eleven years old to acquire this new status, which is well known when talking about the army or gendarmerie, but it appears for the first time in the field of space. Unlike the five new career astronauts who join Thomas Beskett And Luca Parmitano, among the ESA staff, has no guarantee that they will one day set foot on the ISS or the Moon.

“If one day we are called to the floor we must be ready”

They will continue to work in their current companies, while their comrades will train in Cologne for over a year to learn the basics of the trade, before being called one day to a specific assignment. “I don’t have an employee contract with ESA, but a cooperation agreement as a consultant. For us, the bookies, the challenge for the coming months and years will be to demonstrate our professional activity and contribution to human space travel. We are going to participate in some exercises, missions of unmanned flight missions, experiments. , while continuing to advance in our careers. We must be ready if one day we are called to the ground,” explains 30-year-old polytechnician Arnaud Prost, a fighter pilot in the Air Force.

Question of distribution between states

Having competent people at the helm “under the elbow” is first and foremost responsive to diplomatic issues. “Representation in the body of astronauts is proportional to the countries’ investment in the exploration program. Those who have invested heavily in the program are represented in the European Corps of Professional Astronauts. A smaller share goes to other member states, and the balance can be more representative”, assures Jean Blavac, Head of the Research and Manned Aircraft Program at CNES.

France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom have all committed to either going to the ISS in the next few years or one day setting foot on the moon. Like Thomas Besquet, he has already spent two long periods on the International Space Station. A few years ago, there was no guarantee when your CV was selected out of thousands.

“There are old promotions, some selected ones never fly. For example, this is the case of Michael Wiseau, who was in the 1985 selection with Claudie Hignere and Michael Tognini. He had a great career at CNES, we believed he could fly, but it was not so. . At that time when we were selected, we called it “candidate astronaut.” Until you flew, you had the label of “candidate.” Remi Canton, Head of Operations Development Center (CADMOS) recalled.

Then there are others whose nomination did not reach the final square, but were “drafted”. This was especially the case with the German Matthias Marr. During the last examination of ESA, he presented himself at the same time Thomas BeskettIn 2009 the astronauts’ body coordination was missing by a hair. Still in the agency’s short documents, it will finally be selected in July 2015. And it fliesISS in November 2021 on a company Crew Dragon spacecraft SpaceX.

“ESA Prepares for a Paradigm Shift”

Part of his journey inspired the European Space Agency to institutionalize the presence of astronauts. For now, its new members, whether they’re Poles, Swedes or Czechs, have a better chance of donning a space suit than imagined. But not impossible. “If their country of origin or a company sees an interest in having a particular aircraft, they can become a “project” astronaut, which can come from a collaboration or an opportunity within the framework of commercial flights. In this particular case, they can be assigned to a short-term mission, in any case career astronauts. will be shorter than,” says Jean Blauwak.

A few years before sending humans to Mars, the moon was visited and the conquest of space began again. With private companies scaling up projects parallel to those being undertaken in countries. “ESA is preparing for a paradigm shift: soon there may be many more opportunities to go to space. There are more and more actors who can open up the field of possibilities,” said the Italian Andia Camellini, who is part of the space reserve team. While, he continues to work on “systems aimed at increasing the autonomy of satellites” at Thales Alenia Space in Cannes.

Italian Anthea Comellini, member of the ESA Astronaut Archive, works at Thales Alenia Space in Cannes.
Italian Anthea Comellini, member of the ESA Astronaut Archive, works at Thales Alenia Space in Cannes – Thales Alenia Space.

Beyond this context, beyond the interests of each Member State within ESA, it could also be called upon, along with its counterparts, if one of the career astronauts decides to retire early or suffers from a medical condition that prevents them from returning to orbit.

“Fly all the quotas, I will not join. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of them were called based on the current spatial velocity. I was surprised by their numbers, but I see this as an ESA decision to face the potential for the development of manned aircraft, the scale of which we do not yet understand, so let’s make a broad selection to avoid getting caught. Off card”, analyzes Olivier Sangui, editor-in-chief of the space news site Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse.

All will be prepared in hopes of one day meeting the stars. If they ever miss this phone call, they will have the opportunity to reapply during the ESA’s next examinations, which means they cannot wait thirteen years before resuming the call for applications. “Because the other advantage of being in the reserve astronauts’ body is that if their physical certification is maintained, during the next exam, they will have direct access to the maintenance phases,” notes Jean Blauwak.

For those who have exited this race for the stars in one year at the highest speed, there is no question of failure in their new venture. “Even on the bench, my heart still beats harder when I imagine this dream coming true at European level,” concludes Arnaud Prost.

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