The European Space Agency was astounded by the record number of applicants – more than 22,000 – seeking to be the continent’s next generation of space travelers; the number of women and people with disabilities increased. Despite its efforts to increase diversity among astronauts, NASA acknowledged Wednesday that its gender balance still needs improvement. The number of women applicants has increased, from 15% in 2008 to just 24% in 2012.
While the Agency’s hiring campaign did not specifically mention ethnic diversity, it stressed the importance of ‘representing all parts of our society’. The agency received applications from all 25 member nations and associate members, but the majority came from traditional heavyweights France, Germany, Britain, and Italy.
In a first-of-its-kind effort, the ESA sourced people with physical disabilities in order to identify what space station adaptations they would require. There is fierce competition. Approximately 20 people will be chosen as reserves to provide backup for Europe’s next astronauts. A final decision on the candidates is expected to be reached in the second half of 2022 after intensive screenings.