The European Space Agency's astronaut recruitment project has far exceeded its most optimistic forecasts by generating 23,000 applications.
Upon assessment, around 20 per cent of applicants were found not to meet the requirements for the job, so were quickly informed they would not be considered.
However "more than 80 per cent of all remaining, eligible applications are still under review," according to Antonella Costa, HR business partner at the Agency (ESA).
As the ~18,500 applicants are rather more than the ESA expected, the Agency has apologised for slow response time.
"If you have not yet been invited, it does not necessarily mean that your application is not being considered. We ask you for your patience as we process applications and issue these invitations," Costa said. If you applied, the ESA promises you'll hear one way or another by the end of November.
That's a little later than the original planned October timeline for approvals.
Those that the ESA thinks might have the right stuff are invited to a day-long testing session. Some of those sessions have already taken place and more are scheduled through to the end of 2021.
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The ESA has also run a Parastronaut feasibility project – an effort to recruit astronauts with a physical disability including a deficiency of the feet or legs, through the ankle or below the knee, because of amputation or congenital limb deficiency. Leg length difference is also acceptable, while those of short stature (<130 cm) will also be considered.
That program runs in parallel with the general astronaut program.
There's no guarantee any of the applicants for the Parastronaut program will ever reach space, but the ESA thinks it is worth investigating how to include persons with a disability in its crewed space program. ®
Editor's Note: This story was amended to reflect the backlog is in the general astronaut recruitment program, not the Parastronaut program alone.