ESA agrees on record budget and announces new astronauts

(ORDO NEWS) — European Space Agency passed a record budget to fund its projects, as well as introducing 5 new astronauts and announcing the first-ever recruitment of disabled astronauts.

From more than 22,500 applicants, the agency selected French Sophie Adeno, Spaniard Pablo Alvarez Fernandez, Briton Rosemary Coogan, Belgian Rafael Liegeois and Swiss Marco Sieber.

The recruits will begin training next year and will not go on their first mission until 2026 at the earliest.

British physician and paralympian John McFall will join the parastronaut training program.

The names of the new astronauts were announced after two days of tough negotiations between the ministers of 22 ESA member states, who met in Paris to decide on the agency’s future funding.

They agreed on a budget of 16.9 billion euros for the next three years, up 17 percent from the 14.5 billion euros agreed at the last meeting of the Council of Ministers in 2019.

The biggest contributors were Germany with 3.5 billion euros, France with 3.25 billion euros and Italy with 3.1 billion euros. However, the total committed funds remain well below NASA‘s $24 billion budget for 2022 alone.

Funding for Earth observation programs that monitor climate change amounted to almost 2.7 billion euros.

The budget for robotic and human research jumped to 2.7 billion euros, while telecommunications rose to 1.9 billion euros. The budget for rocket launchers has been increased by a third to 2.8 billion euros.

Launchers, which were one of the subjects of the talks, are needed to enable Europe to send missions into space unaided.

ESA has been struggling to get the ball rolling since Russia withdrew its Soyuz missiles earlier this year in response to European sanctions.

The work was complicated by delays in the launch of the flagship Ariane 6 rocket, which was supposed to make its first flight back in 2020. Its launch has been delayed until the end of 2023.

ESA has even had to resort to using rival SpaceX‘s Falcon 9 rockets to launch two upcoming science missions.

The ExoMars mission, left without support due to recent events, will be continued with US assistance, Aschbacher said.

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