The European Space Agency (ESA) today announced their choices for six new European astronauts. The new recruits will train at the European Astronaut Corps, in preparation for voyages to the International Space Station (ISS) beginning in 2013.
Among them is Danish-born Andreas Mogensen, 32, who fought off 8,407 other applicants in order to receive the position. Mogensen studied Aeronautical Engineering here at Imperial College, graduating with a master's degree in 1999 before completing a PhD at the University of Texas.
Following his doctorate in the United States, Mogensen became a control systems engineer at Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas. He has since been working on research projects at the Surrey Space Center, focusing upon spacecraft guidance, navigation and control.
Speaking at a conference earlier today, Mogensen said that he was "proud and thrilled" to be selected for the space programme. He did, however, say that all of the astronauts selected are feeling nervous, explaining, "when you're a child your parents and teachers tell you to dream big and get that dream, but no one ever tells you what happens when you achieve it. We just have to enjoy each moment as much as possible."
Mogensen will train and fly along-side the five other new recruits, including Timothy Peake - the first astronaut to fly under the British flag. The other four recruits are Italians Samantha Cristoforetti and Luca Parmitano, German-born Alexander Gerst and Frenchman Thomas Pesquet. As the ESA doesn't have its own rockets, the European astronauts will travel to the ISS in rockets belonging to either Russia or the USA.
Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA, stressed that the new astronauts were not chosen because of their specialities or their nationalities, but because they were the best. He said, "this new phase required the recruitment of young talent able to draw on the experience gained by the existing astronauts, able to become, step by step, the representatives of Europe in space who, together with their international colleagues, will live, work, explore and bring back to planet Earth and its citizens their unique experience, their accomplishments and their confidence in the future. They all represent the generation that will move from low earth orbit to the Moon."