PARIS: The European Space Agency unveiled its new class of career astronauts on Wednesday, two women and three men from five different Western European countries.
The agency chose France´s Sophie Adenot, Spain´s Pablo Alvarez Fernandez, Britain´s Rosemary Coogan, Belgium´s Raphael Liegeois and Switzerland´s Marco Sieber out of more than 22,500 applicants.
At a ministerial council in Paris, the ESA also announced the first astronaut recruit with a physical ability, Britain´s John McFall, who will join a separate “parastronaut” programme. Adenot, 40, is an air helicopter test pilot with around 3,000 hours of flying experience.
Coogan, 31, has an astronomy doctorate from the University of Sussex. “I´m European but from the UK,” Coogan said at the ceremony. Though Britain has left the European Union, it remains in the ESA.
Switzerland´s Sieber trained as a paratrooper with the Swiss Special Forces Commando before becoming a helicopter rescue doctor. McFall works as a trauma and orthopaedic specialist in the south of England, the ESA said.
His leg was amputated after a motorcycle accident at the age of 18 and he went on to represent the UK as a Paralympic sprinter. There was one woman, Italy´s Samantha Cristoforetti, among the six astronauts selected in the ESA´s previous 2009 astronaut class, which also included Britain´s Timothy Peake and France´s Thomas Pesquet.