ESA presents its new astronauts, with a Frenchwoman and a paraastronaut


Sophie Adenot joins the agency’s team of regular astronauts alongside Thomas Pesquet. Arnaud Prost, for his part, inherits a spot in the reserve team. Cock a Doodle Doo!

The recruitment campaign launched in February 2021 is finally over; on wednesday evening 23 november the european space agency unveiled the brand new group of european astronauts joining thomas pesquet and his colleagues from the class of 2009. and a french woman is among them!

The lucky winner will be called Sophie Adenot, she is 40 years old and fills an important void by becoming the first French astronaut since Claudie Haigneré, who traveled aboard the Mir station more than 20 years ago. She is an engineer and experienced helicopter pilot, with 3,000 flight hours on her clock, according to Le Monde. She cut her teeth at the National School of Aeronautics and Space, then the prestigious MIT before joining Airbus Helicopters, then the Air Force where she is currently a lieutenant colonel.

She thus becomes the new figurehead of French space travel alongside Thomas Pesquet, who inherited the position in 2009. And since then, the bar from Rouen has been set very high; he has established himself as a personality highly appreciated by professionals and the general public, especially thanks to his personality and his unconditional love for popularizing science, which he practices with great enthusiasm and benevolence.

The future will tell if Adenot will follow in Pesquet’s footsteps at this level, or if she will be a little more discreet. In any case, this new generation should start training in the spring of 2023. However, the first mission will not be for the time being, this promotion will not go into space until 2026.

These newbies will therefore not participate in the next major missions such as the Artemis program; they start by slowly learning to work aboard the ISS, before being integrated into more ambitious missions when they gain experience.

Arnaud Prost, another Frenchman among the reservists

Another Frenchman, Arnaud Prost, was also selected as a reservist. This means that he can be called upon from time to time to bolster the manpower of a specific mission or to replace an injured or sick astronaut. A graduate of Polytechnique and ISAE-SUPAERO, he also holds several degrees in different branches of space science (astrophysics, space travel and planetology). He is also an Air Force fighter pilot and weapons engineer.

Our two compatriots are among the handful of winners selected from the 22,523 applications received by ESA. What an honor knowing that all CV’s were more brilliant than each other. It is also interesting to note that according to official ESA figures, France was the country that submitted the most applications. Of 7087 suitorsFrance was far ahead of Germany (3,695 candidates), the United Kingdom (2,000) and Italy (1,845).

Also note that this is a very balanced promotion. There are three men and three women in the starting group. On the reservists side, six women are ahead of five men. The agency had indicated that it wanted “starts a great generation change”encouraging women to apply; and it’s successful because it’s the first-ever astronaut promotion to receive a almost perfect gender balance.

John McFall, ESA’s very first parastronaut

And this desire for openness goes even further. The contingent of astronauts welcomes a person with a disability for the first time; it’s John McFall, a Briton who becomes the very first ‘parastronaut’ in ESA history.

After all, the person concerned had his leg amputated after a serious motorcycle accident at the age of 19. Subsequently, he became a professional athlete, with several medals in prestigious competitions. We particularly mention his bronze medal at the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2009. He then followed a medical course that will be of great value to the Parastronaut Feasability Study programme. Through this study he becomes a pioneer; his contribution will enable ESA to study the methods of access to space for people with reduced mobility.

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