A Swiss takes off for space

ESA announcement of new astronaut class

Switzerland has a prospective astronaut again! From more than 22,500 applications, the European Space Agency selected Marco Sieber (33) from Switzerland and four other aspiring space explorers.

It's a call for applications that only comes around every few years. In March 2021, the European Space Agency (ESA) started looking for new astronauts for the first time since 2009. In mid-November 2022, the application process came to an end - and a new group of space travellers was presented. ESA had been looking for suitable candidates for over a year and a half. In the four-stage application process, candidates not only had to meet physical requirements, but also demonstrate technical and interpersonal skills.

Second astronaut from Switzerland

Five new men and women can now hope to go into space one day. Among them is Marco Sieber, Switzerland's first astronaut to be nominated since 1999 and Claude Nicollier, who undertook several space flights and once repaired the Hubble telescope during an off-board mission. Sieber is not a military pilot like Nicollier, but a trained paratrooper and private pilot. He studied medicine at the University of Bern.

Flights to the ISS and beyond

In 2023, Sieber will begin a one-year training programme at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne. The training is in preparation for missions to the International Space Station (ISS) and beyond, according to a press release.

The reasons that motivated him to apply and his passion for space exploration are explained in the following interview:

Astronaut candidate with a physical disability

ESA also selected one astronaut candidate with a physical disability. He will take part in the Parastronaut Feasibility Project to develop options for the inclusion of astronauts with physical disabilities in human spaceflight and possible future missions.

Switzerland among the founding members

A new programme that aims to increase Europe's autonomy in space, strengthen ESA's leadership in science and technology in all fields, and act responsibly and develop solutions to mitigate climate change has also been endorsed. Switzerland will contribute around CHF 600 million to these new programmes. As a founding member, Switzerland has helped shape Europe's space activities from the very beginning.