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“I’m going to have to learn the astronaut trade”

The French Sophie Adenot joined Wednesday the new promotion of astronauts of the European Space Agency (ESA), to which nearly 17 billion euros will be allocated for the period 2023-2025. She will be the guest, Thursday, of the Interview of France 24.

The French Sophie Adenot was selected, Wednesday, November 23, to be part of the new promotion of European astronauts. Lieutenant Colonel and Army helicopter pilot, this 40-year-old engineer becomes the second French astronaut after Claudie Haigneré. She will be the guest, Thursday, of the Interview of France 24.

“I am delighted to be part of this new promotion. It was a year and a half of intense preparation, rejoiced Sophie Adenot. The first step is to return to school, as surprising as that may be. to appear at 40. I will have to learn the profession of astronaut, which I do not know at all.

New 2022 class of ESA, the French Sophie Adenot selected © France 24

“Sophie Adenot embodies an example for the future of women in scientific and technical circles, where they are still under-represented (less than one in ten astronauts is a woman)”, declared in a joint press release the Ministry of Economy and Higher Education.

“We worked hard to get here today,” said Sophie Adenot when her appointment was announced. On the podium of the ephemeral Grand Palais in Paris, it was then a Spanish astronaut, then a Briton who were presented by ESA officials. Another Frenchman, Arnaud Prost, has been retained in the reserve corps for the 2022 promotion.

Nearly 22,500 people applied to the European Space Agency (ESA), including more than 7,000 French people, the highest national representation. After a long process, 17 Europeans were selected to join a pool of astronauts, including Thomas Pesquet. The new promotion of European astronauts has two women and three men.

“I’m going to have to learn the astronaut trade”

For newcomers, training will begin in April 2023 at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany. ESA will present, in parallel and for the first time, one or more astronauts with a physical disability, with whom a “feasibility study” on a stay in space will be conducted.

A budget of 17 billion euros

The European Space Agency (ESA) has also voted a budget of 17 billion euros for the next three years, a marked increase but below the 18.5 billion requested by its director general, announced the French Minister for Economy, Bruno Le Maire.

After tough negotiations, the 22 Member States, gathered for two days in Paris, decided on an envelope up 17% compared to the last three years.

It is a “great success”, welcomed the French Minister of the Economy, considering that the budget went “beyond expectations”. Paris abounded to the tune of 3.25 billion euros, the contributions of the other countries not being known immediately.

“Given the level of inflation, I am very impressed by this result”, for his part declared the head of the ESA, Josef Aschbacher, judging that the voted budget was “necessary not to miss the train” in the face of fierce competition, particularly from the United States and China.

stay in the race

The Old Continent does not want to be left too far behind by the two great powers, which are investing massively in space and in particular in exploration. And maintain its rank on a chessboard where competition is raging in the midst of the “New Space” revolution, which is seeing private actors multiply, the American group SpaceX in the lead.

“If we want to be independent, we have to put money on the table”, judges the French Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire, in charge of space, who calls on Europe to “unite against Chinese and American ambitions “.

“We must accelerate the commercialization of space” to catch up with Europe’s delay in private investment, urges Josef Aschbacher, insisting on the massive economic fallout from these budgets.

These investments, to which each State contributes as it pleases, relate in particular to Earth observation, which makes it possible to measure the impact of global warming (3 billion euros requested), space transport, in particular for the Ariane 6 launcher ( 3.3 billion) or the human and robotic exploration of space (3 billion). Almost all the budget lines requested by ESA are clearly increasing, with the exception of the contributions requested for the scientific programs (3 billion euros) which are only adjusting to inflation.

Crucial launcher negotiations

Negotiations promised to be difficult on launchers, a crucial subject for independent access to space. European sovereignty is weakened by the delays of Ariane 6 – considered the response to Space X – and the war in Ukraine, which deprived Europe of Russian Soyuz launchers. ESA, for example, was forced to use the services of Elon Musk’s company to launch two scientific missions.

The issue of launchers is regularly a source of “tightening” between France, Germany and Italy, recognizes Philippe Baptiste, president of CNES, the French space agency.

To ease tensions, these three main ESA contributing countries agreed on Tuesday to guarantee the future operation of the Ariane 6 rocket and its little sister Vega-C, and allow micro and mini-launchers to be sent on behalf of ESA.

The discussions on the future Earth observation satellites, which make it possible to measure the impact of global warming, promise to be longer than expected, because “we are for the moment below the required level”, according to Josef Aschbacher.

Also on the table is ESA’s contribution of 750 million euros to the Iris project for a constellation of secure communications satellites from the European Union, which plans to devote 2.4 billion euros to it.

With AFP