The rigorous training schedule included space & electrical engineering, other scientific disciplines and the major systems of the International Space Station (ISS) and space vehicles. Also included were scuba diving sessions as a preparation for spacewalks, robotics, survival training, rendezvous and docking, and the Russian language.
Selection of the astronauts began in 2008 when the process began of whittling down the 8,000 applications received, to fill just six available places. There followed a year long process of interviews and assessment to evaluate all aspects of suitability, including not only mental and physical aptitude, but importantly, the ability to work successfully as a member of a close-knit team.
Finally, in May 2009, the following six applicants were invited to join ESA’s astronaut group - Samantha Cristoforetti from Italy, Alexander Gerst from Germany, Andreas Mogensen from Denmark, Luca Parmitano from Italy, Timothy Peake from the UK and Thomas Pesquet from France.
The new astronauts will continue with their pre-assignment training, and will also be taking part in public relations activities. Once assigned to a mission, they will concentrate on specialist training for that mission. It is hoped that the first of the new astronauts will have the opportunity to fly to the International Space Station by 2013.