Booo… ESA Rejected my Astronaut Application

ESA hate me:

Dear Mr McNulty,

On behalf of the European Space Agency, I wish to thank you for your application and interest in joining the European Astronaut Corps.

I regret to inform you that after very careful consideration, it has been decided not to retain your application for the post of Astronaut. However, should you not object, we would like to keep your file on record for other career opportunities at ESA and contact you if a post which matches your profile should emerge.

I would also like direct your attention to ‘Careers at ESA’ website in which we advertise all current external vacancies. You may also be interested in subscribing to our recently introduced job alert feature. In order to receive the regular updates on vacant positions at ESA, please click

http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Careers_at_ESA/index.html

and follow the link ‘Subscribe to ESA vacancy notices’.

On behalf of the European Space Agency, I wish you all the best for your further career.

Yours sincerely,

F.C. Danesy
Head, ESOC Human Resources Division

And just for those sore losers out there, it ended:

This is a no-reply email address. Please do not respond to this email.

I was always going to have only a very outside chance, but it was worth it for the fun of applying. There’s not many people who can say that they even tried to become an astronaut and I’ve already had my monies worth in conversations it’s brought up with friends and relatives (like the look on my parents faces when I told them! 😉 ).

Good luck to those who got through, I shall be watching with interest to see if any English people make the final cut. And now, if you’ll forgive the self congratulatory tone of a job application, here are my (obviously WRONG) answers to the big questions on my astronaut application form (actually these are my initial long versions before I realised that the word count limit was actually a character count limit! I had to cut these down to fit the application form):

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

Arthur C Clarke said: “Sometimes I think we’re alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we’re not. In either case the idea is quite staggering.” The universe is very, VERY big and if we are alone, there are unimaginable wonders out there that will never be witnessed by anyone except us. If we are not alone, then one day mankind will discover that there are bigger issues at stake than those confined to our small world. In either case, the most momentous events in human history are yet to happen to our species and they are inextricably linked to our manned space program.

We have the technology and the opportunity to reach out and explore our solar. History will look back at the 20th and 21st century as the pioneering age of space and record how it laid the foundation for the future of human space travel. If what humble skills I have can be put to good use furthering the development of our manned space programme, then it would be a privilege to devote the rest my working life to the greatest adventure known to man.

In your opinion, what are the main tasks that should be performed by an astronaut?

Put simply, the promotion of human space flight to the public. We have the technology, the ability and the imagination to achieve phenomenal progress. What is lacking, particularly in Europe, is the political will. In the 1960’s it was the Cold War that drove the US space program and the moon landings, since then the world has moved forward in co-operation with the ISS. It’s is ironic then that it’s exactly that spirit of co-operation and lack of an “Us vs Them” conflict that has seen the contribution of public funding reduce in recent decades, to the detriment of the space program. It is a credit then to the current US administration that they have recommitted to the manned exploration of space, something that needs to be replicated in Europe.

It is the duty of members of the European space community then, to promote space travel in order to influence political agenda and funding decisions. What better ambassador for the space program is there than an astronaut, truly the fairytale hero of every school boy and girl. It’s exactly these children that grow up to be the voters, the policy makers and world leaders of the future. By promoting and sharing the dream of manned space travel, we can galvanise public opinion and secure long term future funding for our manned spaceflight programme.

Write a candid description of yourself as a person.

Colin is a calm, thoughtful person and a sublime generalist, excelling at any task undertaken. His organised and structured mind is able to quickly grasp the core issues in complex situations, reacting with composure in the face of pressure. Whilst showing a high level of personal initiative, Colin’s affable nature sees him work very well in close nit teams. For the last 15 years Colin has worked in and successfully lead, multi-functional teams comprising 3 to 30 people, from a variety of countries and cultures. Cross cultural man management skills have been well used working on time critical projects with budgets up to EUR 30 million, where Colin typically takes on the roles of technical consultant and general trouble shooter.

Other

A broad engineering background enables Colin to grasp technical concepts quickly, which coupled with an empathetic comprehension of the layman’s level of knowledge, has enabled Colin to spend a decade bridging the gap between the deeply technical and the ordinary man on the street. Whether that be tutoring school children, being the face of technical projects to users, running workshops or giving training courses, Colin is able to explain complicated concepts in engaging ways that anyone can understand. This confidence born from experience, gives Colin the comfortable self-assurance to give presentations to wide ranging audiences, from blue collar worker up to a board of Directors.

{ 43 comments… add one }
  • EPG 24 July 2008, 3:45 pm

    Hey, sorry to hear about ESA. I got my rejection letter today too. I guess they don’t want engineers.

    In the French discussion forum (http://astronautique.actifforum.com/europe-f10/troisieme-selection-d-astronautes-esa-t5542-300.htm) , the ones that got called to the second round got called within 2 days from the last application submission date (! how can they scrutinize 8000 applications and select the “best” within 2 days?? Surely not by having a human read the applications, but with a computer looking for “keywords”), and the profiles were astrphysics, biomedicine, and aviation. I guess ESA doesn’t understand that the people best qualified to “fix” things if something goes wrong/breaks in space are people with engineering backgrounds, and people most trained by experience to work in teams are not PhD academics, but people who work in teams in idustry like engineers.

    Oh well. They don’t know what they’re missing.

  • Steve J 24 July 2008, 9:19 pm

    My application mentioned the fact I was a short hairy male nurse and would appreciate weekends off.

    Even THAT didn’t work..

    What are they looking for other than Belgians??

  • Colin McNulty 25 July 2008, 9:04 am

    Well I’m not going to bitch about the decision, it was always an outside chance. I just feel lucky that I had the opportunity to apply.

  • Rex 26 July 2008, 4:46 am

    I was rejected too, I’m a little disappointed but certainly not surprised although I would have liked to stay in the game a little longer, just to have something more to have to tell to my grandchilds when I’m old…
    What puzzles me are the selection criteria: there are people in the french forum with real impressive (and IMHO) fitting CV which were nevertheless discarded. I can not understand that unless the ESA selection software had a bug or if the answered question “why do you want to become an astronaut?” with “Because it’s cool, I like all these light and buttons on the deck of the Space Shuttle!”…

  • Eric 27 July 2008, 10:11 pm

    I got rejected too 🙁

    I am also an engineer and I tried the on-line psychometric tests and found them a piece of cake. Why didn’t they make us do those tests as part of the application process? I gueass, at 45, I failed the age hurdle. Or was it that I was born in Zimbabwe?

  • Eric 27 July 2008, 10:14 pm

    Anyone know how many got through to the second round?

  • Jack 28 July 2008, 8:07 am

    Mine was rejected too. To be honest I was hopeful that I would get through at least this initial selection and on to the psychometric tests. I have an MD and a PhD, plenty of hands-on research experience, pilot’s licence , military special operations experience, open water diver, that sort of thing – would have thought that on paper this might be enough to at least get to the second phase if nothing else. Age 39, maybe that was above the cut-off, or wrong country, or just checked the wrong box in one of the questions…

    It would be good to know the reason. I feel slightly betrayed that they probably never read the application, just discarded it by some automated process..seeing as those accepted received word within 2 days after the deadline.

  • Colin McNulty 28 July 2008, 9:21 pm

    > I have an MD and a PhD, plenty of hands-on research experience, pilot’s licence , military special operations experience, open water diver,

    Good God man, you sound like Steve Austin! If you didn’t make it in, then what hope us lowly engineers?

    Whilst I agree it would have been great to find out why, that opens the door to ESA for a whole load of arguing and protestation. They’re not going to go for that.

  • Jack 28 July 2008, 10:27 pm

    >Whilst I agree it would have been great to find out why, that opens the door to ESA for a whole load of arguing and protestation. They’re not going to go for that.

    Yes, I agree, and that’s probably out of necessity so can’t blame them really. It’s a huge undertaking for them to fly in, accommodate and test the remaining thousand or so candidates anyway. Never mind handling 8,000 complaints..

    I never thought I’d make it very far, but at this point I guess it’s only natural to be disappointed at not even getting a fair shot at the psychometric tests.

    ESA have their good reasons I’m sure. I think they are looking for a very specific skill set, for instance I do not have any aerospace or astro related experience, and again many astro types may not have the requisite hands-on research experience or mechanical aptitude and whatnot.

  • James 31 July 2008, 2:52 am

    I was sorry to read on here about the people whose applications were rejected – some of you sound very highly qualified indeed. Well the anti-British conspiracy is not complete because I got an email this morning inviting me to Hamburg in the middle of August. Still a long shot but I am looking forward to a little all-inclusive trip to Germany! Wish me luck…

    PS The questions get even weirder. On the in-depth medical questionnaire i’ve got to fill out, one of the questions is “How many times a week do you eat Mashed Potato”. And I am NOT joking.

  • Colin McNulty 31 July 2008, 5:05 am

    James that’s great news (not the bit about potatoes!) congratulations.

    Interesting question though, I wonder what a good answer is? One imagines it may be a staple astronaut food so eating a lot is a good idea??

  • EPG 31 July 2008, 8:32 pm

    Wow, if ESA is really selecting astronauts based on their frequency of consumption of mashed potatoes then I really have to wonder whether this astronaut selection business is actually a joke!

    I’m worried now.

    P.S. Anyone else noticed how ESA doesn’t seem to know that current is measured in Amps, not Volts? Practice tests on their website. Very worrying. I hope the people who wrote the technical tests are not the same ones who are designing any rockets.

  • Jack 4 August 2008, 9:33 am

    Congrats James, can you share your CV with us briefly?

    How often DO you eat mashed potatoes?

  • Colin McNulty 7 August 2008, 8:52 pm

    Lol

  • Martin 13 August 2008, 10:28 am

    I am sorry to hear you are dissapointed. My CV went through and after being there last week in the second round for the tests, I can only tell you that some of them are in the same line of those given to practice on their web, but much more difficult, with difficult timings, shot reaction time given and some other tests that are not in their website. In general it is very difficult and most of the peoplefeels bad after the tests. They are not the same level as those in the web. Similar but very difficult. It is a very stressful day and believeme, only those with an special character will be able to cope well and give their best. With respect to the medical questionare, not only they ask you about your eating pattern, they ask you a whole lot of things related to your physical and mental health, and your family history, it is a serious and detailed questionare made by professionals and designed to check your health in a general but accurate manner.

    It is not fare to blame the selection process as a joke just because you havent been selected. The other candidates are really strong, pilots, engineers (plenty of them), most of them with engineering working experience AND PhD AND pilot licenses. In fact the age range is very wide and the CVs of the candidates are really amazing. So keep working and getting yourselves ready for the next call in a few years to see if you can reach that league.

    Good luck with it.

  • Colin McNulty 14 August 2008, 5:21 pm

    Thanks for the detailed comment Martin, it’s interesting to hear your experiences. I know some people are bitter at not being selected and I guess that’s their prerogative, I think those people would most likely have been weeded out by the personality testing anyway.

    So what’s next? When do you hear about how you did?

  • EPG 22 August 2008, 9:58 pm

    “So keep working and getting yourselves ready for the next call in a few years to see if you can reach that league.”

    All well and good, if you know what they’re looking for.

    When ESA says “we’re looking for this: (see website)” and candidates who meet every single requirement announced on their website get rejected, then one has to wonder, what they really are looking for that they’re not telling you.

    It is not biterness at being rejected, but an annoyance at not being able to understand why. If you don’t know why you failed, you can try again and make the same mistakes. Only if you know why you failed can you improve for the next time.

    However, if selections really are based on “how often you eat mashed potatoes” as opposed to, say, “what is your propensity to contract diabetes in the next 10 years (to which, to be fair, the question how often you eat mashed potatoes is surprisingly relevant, by the way)”, then you have to wonder what is really going on.

    If they say that candidates can come from any of the sciences and engineering disciplines, one wonders why it appears that most of the candidates have aero/astro backgrounds and not many have software engineering backgrounds, for instance. If, say, SW engineers are at a disadvantage to, say, military pilots, this should be clarified in the requirements, and an explanation provided.

    What bugs me is simply that: shooting at a blind target. If you know what to shoot for, you can aim, but I have a strong feeling that ESA was not really looking for what they claimed on their website. As an engineer, that sounds a bit like misleading information to me. What reason does the ESA have not to be transparent, and advertise the astronaut job like they would any other job, with a clear list of required qualifications, and a clear and transparent disclosure of how the selection takes place, so that people can train, practice, and prepare for the tests, much like one would say, for a university exam? That is what is done for most professions, after all.

    Not to mention, again, the unprofessional nature of the ESA sample tests o their website (bad grammar, the technical tests that evidence no knowledge of elementary physics, multiple choice tests with multiple possibly correct answers, etc).

    I do not of course mean with this to devalue the accomplishments of the people who do get selected. Obviously you somehow fit the profile better and I congratulate you, you have excellent reasons to be proud of your accomplishments, and this not only because you made it through the first round!

    But still, I just simply think that it would be nice to know/understand what exactly the profile they’re *really* looking for is. It certainly must be not what I imagined, and as an engineer who likes to figure out how things work, I would like to understand why. For instance, if it is more important to be able to mark: “I am willing to move to Star City for 5 years with no family obbligations” than it is to, say, mark that you are a parachutist, or if it is more important to mark “I know people who work at ESA” than it is to mark “I have several degrees in science and engineering” I would like to know so, and to know why.

    Just out of scientific curiosity, you see. 😛

    Best of luck to Martin and James for continued success with ESA!

  • Colin McNulty 24 August 2008, 6:12 pm

    You make some good points EPG. I’m not going to debate the merits of the ESA application as I’ve moved on, I did like this comment though:

    > However, if selections really are based on “how often you eat mashed potatoes” as opposed to, say, “what is your propensity to contract diabetes in the next 10 years (to which, to be fair, the question how often you eat mashed potatoes is surprisingly relevant, by the way)”, then you have to wonder what is really going on.

    I’m interested in what evidence you have that diabetes is linked to eating mashed potatoes? I happen to agree by the way, I’d just like the evidence to back it up.

  • Rex 26 August 2008, 8:04 am

    The frequency of consumption of mashed potatoes may indeed not be relevant… I’d have rather asked about beans =:-O
    http://www.goffredo.ch/MIR_beans.gif

  • Jenna 26 August 2008, 10:21 am

    Just to clarify about the mashed potato question – as you all seem to be getting so hung up on it – it wasn’t a single stand alone question. There was a 3 or 4 page list of foods/drinks for you to use to indicate your average weekly diet. I’m guessing this is just to give them a rough idea of how much/how healthily you eat. This in itself was a very small part of the medical questionaire which also covered levels of activity, medical history, radiation exposure history, family medical history, etc etc.

  • EPG 26 August 2008, 6:36 pm

  • Colin McNulty 26 August 2008, 8:56 pm

    My bad EPG, I should have asked the Great God Google first.

  • Martin 30 August 2008, 7:39 pm

    Dear EPG,

    I understand your point, but given the huge number of applicants, let;s say as example that if one of the requeriments is to be able to speak 2 european languages perfectly, and you satisfy that, may be that many of the other applicants, speak 3languages. So even if you satisfy the conditions, there are some others with more qualifications than you.

    Regarding the engineering degree..etc, to my amazement, in there it was quite an amount of people coming from other disciplines, biology, maths..etc, non engineering degrees.

    I have heard that another important criteria for them was the “studying” abroad experience of the candidates, and in fact the day I was there, most of the candidates have studied their PhD’s or university degrees somewhere else different from the origin countries.

    I guess that appart from the CV they took into account the capability of living and studying abroad, number of european languages you could speak, and all those little questions we all answered on the initial application form online.

    well, this is my point of view.

    Martin

  • EPG 31 August 2008, 7:36 pm

    Hey, Martin, I understand. My point is, I have studied both of my degrees 6 years outside of Europe in a top 10 (and I do mean well in the top of the top 10) US university. I have 8 years of “operational experience” in industry, working on products direcly relevant to space-technologies. I speak (fluently!) 5 languages. I satisfy (like many other rejected candidates, I’m sure) all of the requirements (and then some) that ESA posted. Yet I too was rejected. Why? We will never know. But I am pretty sure that my application was not quite read (I am absolutely positive no one read my essays–first of all, because there wasn’t time to read 8000 essays when the first acceptance emails were being sent just 2 days after the submission deadline, and secondly, because my essays contained information that was not conveyed by their restrictive multiple-choice questions, which would’ve helped my candidacy, I am sure). It was instead some of those “little” multiple-choice question where I answered the wrong thing. Which one was it? I know no one at ESA or have no connections with ESA. It might have been that. It might have been that I happen to have dual citizenship (to a 3rd world country, no less), or it might have been that my degrees, because they were obtained in an american university, were not recognized in the computer “lists” (say, I wrote Master of Engineering instead of Master of Science, if the computer scanner doesn’t know what a Master of Engineering is, it may have ignored it, or maybe I wrote S.B. instead of B.S. for Bachelor of Science, who knows?). It might have been my height and weight was off by a little (they claim they “accept” candidates who are at least 1.53 m tall, but I am 1.54, is that too close to the cutoff, is it enough to eliminate me?)

    The point is: I have no idea what I did wrong, nor do any of the rejected candidates. This is not a transparent process, and it would be nice to know if I was rejected because, say, I was the wrong height or the wrong citizenship as opposed to, say, that I did not have the right preparation. In the first case, you know not to waste your time applying next time, but in the second case, you can do something about it.

    Again, back to my original point. With a transparent process, candidates can prepare, practice, and present their best selves. With a hidden process like this one, ESA might miss great candidates through the cracks. So why have a “secret” process? It makes no sense unless they really don’t mind too much who they get (I guess because all respondents, as we can see from this blog, for instance, have outstanding qualifications), and they are simply trying to eliminate the overwhelming number of responses. In that case, then any given person’s chance is fairly random, and boils down to luck, in the end. From an organization as prestigious as ESA, I sure hope it is not just about “happy chance”.

    (shrug).

    Anyway, keep us posted, Martin and James! Tell us the quirky details, like if you get zipped up in a ballon for the psych-tests like they do over at NASA! ;P Good luck to you all!

  • Kelly 1 September 2008, 7:31 pm

    My boyfriend just got an email from ESA inviting him to the third round!

  • Colin McNulty 5 September 2008, 7:39 am

    Woot! Kelly, please ask him to post here what his experiences of the 2nd round were, and what’s happening on the 3rd. If I can’t do it myself, I need to live the dream by proxy! 🙂

  • Jose 7 September 2008, 6:03 am

    i made it trough the second round, but have not received mail for the third round yet. since they were very prompt with sending out those emails in the second round, i guess this means it is over for me (cf. post from Kelly above). in my case i am a physics faculty, but have no flight experience. will let you know once i get the rejection letter.

  • Colin McNulty 9 September 2008, 8:26 pm

    I’ve got my fingers crossed for you Jose.

  • Jussi 10 September 2008, 3:15 pm

    Dear Jose & Co!

    I also made it through to second (military flight test background), and tested on the very first day of tests in Hamburg. I have also not heard anything yet, but I keep the hopes up ofcourse for all of us. What could possibly be of interest: One of the applicants, a girl working for ESA told me that she had heard the first selection was largely done by “automated computer pick-out” based on many of the questions answered during the on-line application and then “fine tuned” in the end by ESA selection staff to finalize the number of applicants cleared for the trip. The second round would take more time to manually review different documents and answers more in depth (UE the ref. letters etc posted to ESA during the 2nd round). IE the invitations could come later than teh first day of the period? Let us hope that this is correct? Who knows….
    Regards!

  • Colin McNulty 11 September 2008, 9:23 pm

    Great post Jussi,

    > the first selection was largely done by “automated computer pick-out”

    Well that’s no huge surprise but it’s nice to hear that what we thought appears to be true. Well done you on getting through, please stay in touch and let us know what happens. I’m determined to be an astronaut by proxy! 😉

  • paapu 16 September 2008, 1:07 pm

    Hi Colin,

    If it relieves your pain got just EXACTLY the same email as you did in june. Maybe rotating the dice was not my thing…

    Good luck for those who went on!

    Paapu

  • Jose 21 September 2008, 8:54 am

    Paapu,

    Interesting…. I have not received any rejection email yet about the September-December round. Looks like they are doing it in batches. In the June round, I got the invitation hours after the deadline. Hence I would have expected it to be the same here. Looks like they are now comparing the output from the automated dice-rolling bullshit to the letters of recommendation/background of the candidates. As soon as I get my ‘thanks, but no thanks’ letter, I will let you know.

  • Jose 20 October 2008, 2:27 pm

    So it seems that by accident out mailserver swallowed the esa rejection email due to a misconfiguration. I guess I am out as well.

  • Colin McNulty 20 October 2008, 6:53 pm

    Tough luck Jose.

  • EPG 21 October 2008, 3:27 pm

    Hey, Jose, now that you’re out of the running (and therefore, I assume, no longer bound to vows of “secrecy”), at least tell us what the first round was like. What did they ask you, what were the tests like, did they really ask you “How many amps come out of the mains plug in your house?”, what kind of people were there with you, what was the age range, what was the citizenship distribution, how many were biologists vs how many were mathematicians, how many rock climbers vs how many parachutists, that kind of thing. Surely you had a chance to get at least a first impression of the qualifications, background and experience of the other candidates? Were the tests something you could’ve prepared for? Were they stressful? Were they fun? Did you meet some of the current astronauts? Did you like the office facilities? Do they run Windows XP at ESA? (just kiddin’, but hey, one never knows). No need to be laconic now, I say. ;D.

  • Colin McNulty 21 October 2008, 9:09 pm

    Lol @ EPG. Got something on your mind? 😉

  • Smiley 12 November 2008, 1:28 pm

    Short notice, but this could be interesting…

    Space Station Dana event details

    Events are free and open to anyone over 18. Tickets can be booked by
    telephone or online (www.danacentre.org.uk / 0207 942 4040)

    The Space Station Dana will explore the selection process for budding
    astronauts through expert talks and a series of games and will be held
    on 13 November from 19.00-21.00

    Visitors will be able to pose questions to experts, including space
    veteran Jean-Francois Clervoy and participate in simulated astronaut
    selection games.

    Visitors to the Science Museum’s Dana Centre can discover if they have what
    it takes to become an astronaut during a night of space selection on Thursday
    13 November (19.00-21.00). Space Station Dana will give visitors the
    opportunity to participate in a unique recruitment game for potential
    astronauts and experience first-hand what the demanding selection procedure
    entails.

    Astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy, a space veteran with 675 hours experience in
    space will be touching down to discuss the ESA’s latest intake of recruits to
    its European Astronaut Corps, the selection process and answer questions from
    the audience. In addition visitors will have the chance to hear from experts
    in space psychology and physiology, and test their own performance under
    pressure in a series of astronaut simulation tests.

    The venue will be divided up into three sections, with expert talks and
    recruitment games taking place in each location. Visitors will be able to
    undergo collaborative skill tests, assess their logic under strain and answer
    questions on their space knowledge.

    The Science Museum’s Dana Centre

    The Science Museum’s Dana Centre is an adults-only café/bar that hosts
    performances, debates, comedy and interactive events all based around
    contemporary science. The Dana Centre takes a no-holds barred look at the
    biggest issues in science today, from technology to testicles and beatboxing
    to brain waves.

    Complete with a wired café-bar, whatever the topic, the Dana Centre strives
    to deliver fresh, intellectually and emotionally challenging events in its
    striking space. The Centre uses innovative techniques to get audiences
    talking – from theatre sketches to electronic voting on the issue of the day,
    pub quiz challenges and digital art.

    State-of-the-art digital facilities link the Centre and its events with
    venues all over the UK, those on the Internet and everyone with a mobile.
    Online discussion boards allow those unable to attend in person to have their
    say on issues that matter to them.

    Visit http://www.danacentre.org.uk and become part of Dana’s wider community
    discussing the hottest topics in science today.

  • Colin McNulty 13 November 2008, 9:12 am

    Cheers Smiley, great post. They had Astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy on breakfast TV this morning, talking to school kids about how to become an astronaut. If we see an English astronaut in ESA before the UK gov’t changes it’s funding policy on ESA, I’ll eat my hat.

  • Colin McNulty 25 May 2009, 7:57 pm

    > If we see an English astronaut in ESA before the UK gov’t changes it’s funding policy on ESA, I’ll eat my hat.

    Well, it’s time for me to eat my hat. They chose a British guy after all!

    From: The Telegraph

    Timothy Peake, an Apache helicopter test pilot, is to become Britain’s first official spaceman after being accepted into the European Space Agency’s Astronaut Corps.

    Briton Major Timothy Peake who was named by the European Space Agency (ESA) today as one of its six new astronauts

    Major Peake, who served for 18 years in the British Army including terms in Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan, beat more than 8,000 other hopefuls to be selected along with five other colleagues from across Europe.

    The appointment of the 37-year-old, who now lives in Salisbury, marks a change in British government policy as the cost of putting a man into space – about £18 million – has in the past been considered too expensive.

    So far only those who have secured private funding or US citizenship have made it into orbit.

    Major Peake, who is married with a four month-old-baby, said it was a “great privilege” and hoped to be the first Britain on the Moon.

    “One of my great dreams is to take part in a Lunar Mission and now that is not at all an impossible dream,” he said.

    Major Peake, the son of a journalist, was picked alongside two Italians Samantha, Cristoforett and Luca Parmitano, Alexander Gerst, a German, Dane Andreas Mogensen and Frenchman Thomas Pesquet.

    They will now have to move to Cologne, Germany, in September where they will start a three-and-a-half year training programme before being allowed into space.

    One of their first tasks will be to learn Russian as the chances are their first flight will be on a Russian rocket.

    “On the face of it sitting on top of a rocket has nothing in common with flying a helicopter,” said Major Peake, who only retired from the army 20 days ago.

    “But both do involve constant risk assessment and exploring new boundaries.”

    The first Briton in space was Sheffield-born chemist Helen Sharman. She had to secure private funding to fly to the Mir space station on a Russian Soyuz craft in 1991.

    Three British-born astronauts have flown into space under an American flag: Michael Foale, Piers Sellers and Nicholas Patrick.

    Jean Jacques Dordain, director-general of Esa said he hoped it will now encourage the British government to contribute to human flight.

    “With such a good guy, how can they not contribute?” he said.

    But Lord Drayson, the Science Minister, later said there would be no change in funding. “Having an official British astronaut will raise the profile of the British science industry.”

    Britain is currently the fourth largest contributor to ESA, spending more than £200m a year, but the money goes into unmanned space missions.

  • Colin McNulty 6 September 2009, 10:08 pm

    I read a great article this weekend about 1 way missions to Mars. Would you take one?

  • sera 27 December 2015, 9:20 am

    Maybe you should try at nasa. Nasa has been taking the applications till january. Maybe you can try your luck. What type of qualifications you need are given below application form. You can go on official website of usajobs. All the best. Hope i can help you.

  • Budgie 19 January 2017, 7:45 pm

    ESA must do another astronaut selection, it would be amazing just in couple of years like 2019 or 2020. They did recruit in 1992, 1998 and in 2009. The first two selections are 6 years apart and the second and the third are 11 years apart.. so do not tell me that 4th will be happen in 16 years ‘•○•^

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