European Astronaut Corps

The European Astronaut Corps is a unit of the European Space Agency (ESA) that selects, trains, and provides astronauts as crew members on U.S. and Russian space missions. As of September 2019, the corps had 13 active members, able to board the International Space Station (ISS). The European Astronaut Corps is based at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. They can be assigned to various projects both in Europe (at ESTEC, for instance) or elsewhere in the world, at NASA Johnson Space Center or Star City.


Selection of new astronauts in 2009

According to French weekly Air & Cosmos, only six astronauts (Fuglesang, Schlegel, Nespoli, Eyharts, De Winne and Kuipers) remain available for immediate flight. Vittori and Clervoy are on temporary leave or assigned to other duties. The head of human spaceflight at ESA recommended that at least four more astronauts (plus four other in reserve) should be added after the launch of Columbus in February 2008.

On April 3, 2008, ESA director general Jean-Jacques Dordain announced that recruiting for a new class of European astronauts will start in the near future.[1] The selection program for 4 new astronauts was launched on May 19, 2008 with applications due by 16 June 2008 so that final selection would be due spring 2009.[2] Almost 10 000 people registered as astronaut candidates 2008-06-18. 8413 fulfilled the initial application criteria. From these 918 were chosen to take part in the first stage of psychological testing which led to 192 candidates in 2008-09-24. After two stage psychological tests 80 candidates will continue to medical evaluation in January/February 2009. 40 or so candidates will head to a formal interviews to select the four new members to European Astronaut Corps.[2]

Future of the European Astronaut Corps

After the ISS

The funding by NASA and Russia of the International Space Station is currently planned to end in 2028. The role of European astronauts beyond this point is unclear. Some speculation suggests ESA's involvement with NASA's Orion programme may give European astronauts a seat aboard the Orion spacecraft, although this has not been announced.

Current members

There are thirteen active members of the European Astronaut Corps.

Time in space
Jean-François Clervoy  France 1992 ESA Group 28d 03h 05m STS-66, STS-84, STS-103
Samantha Cristoforetti  Italy 2009 ESA Group 199d 16h 43m Soyuz TMA-15M, (Expedition 42/43)
Léopold Eyharts  France 1998 ESA Group 68d 21h 31m Soyuz TM-27, Soyuz TM-26, STS-122, Expedition 16, STS-123
Christer Fuglesang  Sweden 1992 ESA Group 26d 17h 38m STS-116, STS-128
Alexander Gerst  Germany 2009 ESA Group 362d 1h 50m Soyuz TMA-13M (Expedition 40/41), Soyuz MS-09 (Expedition 56/57)
André Kuipers  Netherlands 1998 ESA Group 203d 15h 51m Soyuz TMA-4, Soyuz TMA-3, Soyuz TMA-03M, (Expedition 30, 31)
Andreas Mogensen  Denmark 2009 ESA Group 9d 20h 14m Soyuz TMA-18M/Soyuz TMA-16M
Luca Parmitano  Italy 2009 ESA Group 166d 6h 19m Soyuz TMA-09M, (Expedition 36/37),
Currently in space: Soyuz MS-13, (Expedition 60/61)[3]
Timothy Peake  United Kingdom 2009 ESA Group 185d 22h 11m Soyuz TMA-19M (Expedition 46/47)
Thomas Pesquet  France 2009 ESA Group 196d 17h 49m Soyuz MS-03 (Expedition 50/51)
Hans Schlegel  Germany 1998 ESA Group 22d 18h 02m STS-55, STS-122
Roberto Vittori  Italy 1998 ESA Group 35d 12h 26m Soyuz TM-34, Soyuz TM-33, Soyuz TMA-6, Soyuz TMA-5, STS-134
Matthias Maurer  Germany 2015 ESA Astronaut Corps No flight No missions

All of the current members of the corps have flown to space, except Maurer. All flown members except Jean-François Clervoy have visited the ISS. German astronaut Alexander Gerst is the member of the corps who has accumulated the most time in space with 362 days 1 hour and 50 minutes. He is the record holder for all the European astronauts in history. The oldest is Hans Schlegel, born in 1951. The corps currently includes one woman, Samantha Cristoforetti, who formerly held the record for the longest spaceflight by a woman. Only two other women have been members of the corps. Marianne Merchez who never flew, and Claudie Haigneré who resigned after two missions to start a political career in France.

Former members

As of August 2019 there were 18 former members of the ESA astronaut corps.[4]

European astronauts outside of ESA


Ten Europeans became astronauts within the Soviet Union's Interkosmos program, which allowed citizens of allied nations to fly missions to the Salyut 6, Salyut 7 and Mir space station.

Space Shuttle

NASA trained and flew astronauts from allied nations on the Space Shuttle, especially as payload specialists for scientific missions such as Spacelab. Prior to the foundation of the ESA astronaut corps, both the French CNES and the German DLR had selected their own rosters of astronauts, notably in preparation for the introduction of the ISS. The following people flew on various Shuttle missions.[lower-alpha 1]

  1. Other European astronauts who flew on the Space Shuttle were transferred to the ESA astronaut corps, and are listed above.


The following people flew on missions to Mir under agreements between their nations and Russia.

Space Shuttle missions

Astronauts from the European Astronaut Corps participated in several NASA Space Shuttle missions before the ISS era, in particular as Spacelab Payload Specialists. (This list excludes missions to Mir or the ISS)

As Payload Specialists

As Mission Specialists

Missions to the Mir space stations

Astronauts from Europe have flown to Mir both on board Soyuz vehicles (as part of the Euromir programme) or on board the Space Shuttle.[5]

Missions to the International Space Station

European astronauts to have visited the ISS are:

AstronautAgencyMissionLaunchReturnExpeditionLaunch DateReturn DateNote
Umberto GuidoniESASTS-100STS-100Expedition 219 Apr 20011 May 2001Flight 6A with MPLM Raffaello, visited Expedition 2 crew
Claudie HaigneréCNESAndromèdeSoyuz TM-33Soyuz TM-32Expedition 321 Oct 200131 Oct 2001Visited Expedition 3 crew
Roberto VittoriESAMarco PoloSoyuz TM-34Soyuz TM-33Expedition 425 Apr 20025 May 2002Visited Expedition 4 crew
Philippe PerrinCNESSTS-111STS-111Expedition 4/55 Jun 200219 Jun 2002ISS Assembly Flight UF-2, launched with Expedition 5 crew and landed with Expedition 6 crew
Frank De WinneESAOdisseaSoyuz TMA-1Soyuz TM-34Expedition 530 Oct 200210 Nov 2002Visited Expedition 5 crew
Pedro DuqueESACervantesSoyuz TMA-3Soyuz TMA-2Expedition 7/818 Oct 200328 Oct 2003Launched with Expedition 8 crew landed with Expedition 67 crew,
André KuipersESADELTASoyuz TMA-4Soyuz TMA-3Expedition 8/919 Apr 200430 Apr 2004Launnched with Expedition 8 crew, landed with Expedition 8 crew
Roberto VittoriESAEneideSoyuz TMA-6Soyuz TMA-5Expedition 10/1115 Apr 200524 Apr 2005Launched with Expedition 11 crew, landed with Expedition 10 crew
Thomas ReiterESAAstrolabSTS-121STS-116Expedition 13/144 Jul 200622 Dec 2006ISS Assembly Flight ULF 1.1, first European to live on the ISS as Flight Engineer on Expedition 13 and 14
Christer FuglesangESACelsiusSTS-116STS-116Expedition 1410 Dec 200622 Dec 2006ISS Assembly Flight 12A.1, visited Expedition 14 crew
Paolo NespoliESAEsperiaSTS-120STS-120Expedition 1623 Oct 20077 Nov 2007ISS Assembly Flight 10A, visited Expedition 16 crew
Hans SchlegelESAColumbusSTS-122STS-122Expedition 167 Feb 200820 Feb 2008ISS Assembly Flight 1E, visited Expedition 16 crew
Léopold EyhartsESAColumbusSTS-122STS-123Expedition 167 Feb 200827 Mar 2008ISS Assembly Flight 1E, second European to live on the ISS as Flight Engineer on Expedition 16
Frank De WinneESAOasISSSoyuz TMA-15Soyuz TMA-15Expedition 20/2127 May 20091 Dec 2009Flight Engineer on Expedition 20, first European to command the ISS as commander of Expedition 21
Christer FuglesangESAAlISSéSTS-128STS-128Expedition 2029 Aug 200912 Sep 2009ISS Assembly Flight 17A, visited Expedition 20 crew
Paolo NespoliESAMagISStraSoyuz TMA-20Soyuz TMA-20Expedition 26/2715 Dec 201024 May 2011Flight Engineer on Expedition 26 and 27
Roberto VittoriESADAMASTS-134STS-134Expedition 27/2816 May 20111 Jun 2011Visited Expedition 27 and 28
André KuipersESAPromISSeSoyuz TMA-03MSoyuz TMA-03MExpedition 30/3121 Dec 20111 Jul 2012Flight Engineer on Expedition 30 and 31
Luca ParmitanoESAVolareSoyuz TMA-09MSoyuz TMA-09MExpedition 36/3728 May 201311 Nov 2013Flight Engineer on Expedition 36 and 37, first member of the 2009 ESA astronaut class to fly
Alexander GerstESABlue DotSoyuz TMA-13MSoyuz TMA-13MExpedition 40/4128 May 201410 Nov 2014Flight Engineer on Expedition 40 and 41
Samantha CristoforettiESAFuturaSoyuz TMA-15MSoyuz TMA-15MExpedition 42/4323 Nov 201411 Jun 2015Flight Engineer on Expedition 42 and 43, Longest uninterrupted spaceflight of a European astronaut
Andreas MogensenESAIrISS[6]Soyuz TMA-18MSoyuz TMA-16MExpedition 442 Sep 201512 Sep 2015 Visited Expedition 44 crew, first Danish astronaut
Timothy PeakeESAPrincipia[7]Soyuz TMA-19MSoyuz TMA-19MExpedition 46/4715 Dec 201518 June 2016Flight Engineer on Expedition 46 and 47
Thomas PesquetESAProxima[8]Soyuz MS-03Soyuz MS-03Expedition 50/5117 Nov 201616 May 2017Flight Engineer on Expedition 50 and 51
Paolo Nespoli[9]ESAVitaSoyuz MS-05Soyuz MS-05Expedition 52/5328 July 201714 December 2017Flight Engineer on Expedition 52 and 53
Alexander GerstESAHorizonsSoyuz MS-09Soyuz MS-09Expedition 56/576 June 201820 December 2018Flight Engineer on Expedition 56, second European to command the ISS as commander of Expedition 57
Luca ParmitanoESABeyond Soyuz MS-13 Soyuz MS-13 Expedition 60/6120 July 2019 February 2020 (Planned) Flight Engineer on Expedition 60, commander of Expedition 61

See also


  1. Clark, Stephen (3 April 2008). "Europe's new cargo freighter safely docks to space station". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  2. "Closing in on new astronauts". ESA. 24 September 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  3. "ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano to be Space Station commander on his next flight". ESA. May 31, 2018. Retrieved June 9, 2018.
  4. "European astronauts in new functions". ESA. 2 August 2019. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  5. "European Manned Spaceflight Patches" (PDF). ESA. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  6. "The iriss name and logos". ESA. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  7. "ESA mission name for astronaut Tim Peake: Principia F". ESA. 18 July 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  8. "Thomas Pesquet closer to space with mission name Proxima". ESA. 12 November 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  9. "Third spaceflight for astronaut Paolo Nespoli". ESA. 30 July 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2016.

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