ESA ASTRONAUTS BIOGRAPHIES : www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Astronauts
The European Space Agency began its manned flight programme with Spacelab, providing the opportunity for the selection of the first ESA astronauts in 1978.
The three first astronauts selected were
- The German Ulf Merbold,
- The Dutch Wubbo Ockels and
- The Swiss Claude Nicollier.
Ulf Merbold was the first to fly in 1983 with STS-9 and Wubbo Ockels flew two years later.
Claude Nicollier, who had to wait 14 years to experience his first flight with STS-46 in 1992, now leads the pack with four space flights.
The second ESA astronaut selection was in 1992 in the framework of two major ESA programmes: HERMES (today cancelled) and COLUMBUS. The larger number of astronauts selected and the variety of European nations represented reflected the increased public interest in Europe for manned flight in this period. More than 22 000 Europeans expressed interest in becoming astronauts, including 5500 serious candidates.
Six candidates were finally selected, including only one previously selected national astronaut:
- Jean-Francois Clervoy, the first French member of the Corps. Also selected were
- the second German astronaut, Thomas Reiter,
- Maurizio Cheli from Italy (resigned in 1996),
- Pedro Duque from Spain,
- Christer Fuglesang from Sweden and
- the first woman, Marianne Merchez from Belgium who has since resigned and did not fly.
On 25 March 1998, the ESA Council decided to build up the single European Astronaut Corps. The objective was to improve the management of the organisation in the framework of the International Space Station programme in which ESA plays a major role. France and Germany, who were the only European countries with a national Astronaut Corps, promoted the idea that the fusion was a good and necessary decision to optimise the astronaut resources.
The details of the Council resolution included the decision of the constitution of a corps of 16 Astronauts (four for Germany, France and Italy and four for all the other Member States). The integration process would culminate with the dissolution of the national Astronaut Corps at the end of June 2000. This agreement does not exclude the possibility of a Member State using an astronaut of the European Astronaut Corps for a space mission organised at the national level.
The first group of seven astronauts joined the Corps in 1998:
* Gerhard Thiele and
- Hans Schlegel from Germany
* Umberto Guidoni,
- Paolo Nespoli and
- Roberto Vittori from Italy
* Léopold Eyharts and
- Jean-Pierre Haigneré from France
Jean-Pierre Haignere left the Corps in November 1999, after his second flight, to become Head of the Astronaut Division. He is currently senior advisor to the ESA Director of Launchers, in charge of studying all aspects for a Soyuz human spaceflight programme from Europe's spaceport in French Guiana.
A second group of four astronauts joined in 1999 and included
- Reinhold Ewald from Germany,
- André Kuipers from the Netherlands and
- Claudie Haigneré (formerly André-Deshays) and
- Michel Tognini from France.
- Frank De Winne from Belgium joined the Corps at the beginning of 2000.
In June 2002 Claudie Haigneré took up the post of Minister for Research and New Technologies in the French government.
In May 2003, Michel Tognini left the European Astronaut Corps to follow-up Jean-Pierre Haigneré as Head of the Astronaut Division at EAC in Cologne, Germany.
- Philippe Perrin from France, who joined the Corps in December 2002, left in May 2004 to become Experimental Test Pilot with Airbus Industrie in Toulouse.
Umberto Guidoni left the Corps in June 2004.
The last selected ESA astronauts - Class of 2009 are
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