ESA Astronaut selection day

My Hamburg astronaut selection day arrived. I bumped into some of the candidates in the hotel lobby and we introduced ourselves and then walked the 10 minutes to the test centre, not knowing what to expect.

We arrived at the facility which is used by the German Air Force, which also hosts this initial round of selection tests.

All we had been given was this timetable for the day (practically identical to the one in Tim Peake’s Astronaut Selection Handbook):

08.30 – 09:00 Introduction
09.00 – 09:45 Tests I
09.45 – 09:55 Break
09.55 – 11:00 Tests II
11.00 – 11:10 Break
11.10 – 12:10 Tests III
12.10 – 13:10 Lunch Break
13.10 – 14:00 Tests IV
14.00 – 14:10 Break
14.10 – 15:25 Tests V
15.25 – 15:35 Break
15.35 – 18:00 Tests VI
18.00 End

And the computer programmes gave clues for the rest.

Once we had shown ID and checked in, we were shown to the test room which contained about 60 desks with computer screens installed. There were post-it notes on the back of a very small number of the screens showing which terminals we would be using. So there were only 11 of us in total for this day of selection. Which explains why the process is going to take so long this time around.

First off, we had an introductory presentation from a really lovely psychologist that oversees the testing at this centre for both German Air Force and European Space Agency candidates. We weren’t told anything new about the test day, so it was still fairly mysterious.

And then we were straight into it!

It was a long day with lots of different tests, all sat at our computers, responding to whatever popped up on the screen. From Tim Peake’s book, I had expected it to be almost unbearable, with tension building and not being able to dissipate throughout the day but I actually found that there were enough breaks and that they lasted long enough to both decompress and socialise with the other candidates.

The snacks I had brought went down well and break times were genuinely really great – what an awesome bunch of people with a mixture of skills and experience. Bizarrely I even had an acquaintance in common with one of the candidates!! What a small world.

I can’t give too much detail about the test day, as the process in ongoing right the way into December as far as we have been told.

But it was an amazing experience to go through those tests for real after all the prep work I put in, and the prep itself helped me to feel calm as I dove into each test, one after the other.

So that’s it for now… I think we might find out sometime in December whether we get through to the next phase…

However… In order to ensure I’m in the best possible position if I do get through, I’ve decided to take some steps throughout the winter which will certainly keep me occupied and will fill the pages of this blog for months to come!

Until next time 🙂

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